Tracking tech promises from ‘Back to the Future’

The DeLorean time travels to Ryerson University. (Photo illustration by Brittany Ferreira/Ryersonian Staff)

The DeLorean time travels to Ryerson University. (Photo illustration by Brittany Ferreira/Ryersonian Staff)

This is heavy, guys.

Today we passed the date Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited in their time-travelling Delorean in the 1989 blockbuster Back to the Future Part II.

From now on, Back to the Future will forever be in our rear view.

Co-writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale loaded the trilogy’s first sequel with memorable projections of future tech.


Never ones to back down from a challenge (we’re not chicken!), The Ryersonian takes a quick and dirty measure of the predicted, delivered and broken tech promises of Back to the Future Part II.

Promised: Hover Boards.

Verdict: Delivered! Sort of.

Who hasn’t been waiting to give Mattel all the money to get their hands on the film’s levitating skateboard?

A few prototypes — and a number of hoaxes — have caught our attention in recent years, but the most promising comes from California tech company Hendo.

It works by using “an opposing magnetic field in the surface substrate below that provides lift, levitating [the] board off the ground.”

Translation: it can only fly over metal. Bummer.

Promised: Virtual reality and real-time info goggles.

Verdict: Totally delivered and beyond.

In the film, Marty’s kids wear goggles at dinner that allows them to watch TV and receive information about the world around them.

This is essentially the now defunct Google Glass. Samsung and Microsoft both have virtually reality headsets on the market though, and don’t forget the Oculus Rift.

Promised: Mr. Fusion.

Verdict: Not really, but…

Mr. Fusion is the trash-to-fuel converter Doc uses to fuel the future-tech Delorean, stuffing banana peels and cans of Coke to fuel the flying car.

So, no, this isn’t a thing yet. However, biofuel made from corn exists and according to this article on, in 2018: “Italy will become the first country in Europe to “legally require [advanced fuels made from waste] in cars and trucks.”


Promised: Flying cars.

Verdict: Nope.

Maybe we should wait until the regular road cars can drive themselves before we add flying to the mix.

Google is well on its way to delivering a self-driving car to market, and Chinese company Yutong recently unveiled self-driving public buses.

A step in the right direction?

Promised: Electro-rejuvenation clinics

Verdict: Pretty much!

Doc peels off his skin when he and Marty arrive in their ‘projected’ future to reveal he has changed his blood and removed his wrinkles.

We do have anti-wrinkle treatments like botox and chemical peels, but don’t bet on them adding any years to your life.

Promised: Faxing, faxes and fax machines everywhere.

Verdict: Hell, no!

Sorry Gale and Zemeckis, but you guys got this one wrong. In the movie, a giant fax machine replaces outdoor mail boxes and future Marty gets a whole whack of simultaneous “YOU’RE FIRED” faxes all over the house. Even though no one has told my grandma yet, fax is no longer a thing.

Promised: Black and Decker Food Rehydrator

Verdict: No.

This really is one of the more gut-wrenching broken promises from the movie. Grandma McFly pops a tiny dehydrated pizza into the device and 12-seconds later a hot and gooey ready-to-eat pizza pops out.

Come on Black and Decker, we’re hungry!

Promised: Automated dog-walking drone.

Verdict: Nope.

When Doc and Marty arrive in the future, they see a dog walking on a leash held by a hover drone.

While this particular robot doesn’t exist (yet), I am sorry to report that the laziness of humans does endure. Doggie treadmills are a thing.

Promised: Holomax movies.

Verdict: Yes! Well, no!

But they looked terrible anyway! Why would you want crazy future technology if you’re just going to show 80s-style graphics? I kid, but have you tried D-BOX yet? Or AVX? And today’s 3D is pretty spectacular. By the way, Jaws 19 never made it to theatres, but don’t worry, there’s always Sharknado.

– – –

So for those of you keeping score at home, that’s three tech predictions delivered, three that sort of made it to real life, and three tech-nerd dreams brutally dashed and at least one prediction so wrong it hurts. Seriously, does anyone still fax?

Which Back to the Future tech do you wish had made it to real-life? What present-day tech do you think has surpassed the film’s wildest predictions? Let us know on Twitter via @Bexxwood and @TheRyersonian!



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