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Back To The Future Day

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Back To The Future is iconic to people growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. Going to see what was a summer blockbuster felt as big at the time as going to see Star Wars.

Whilst its a great bit of nostalgia, it makes great points on how technological progress hadn’t occurred in ways that were beneficial to society.

Key takeouts

The stars of Back To The Future have aged really well. I watched this as a teenager in the cinema. Although Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News now looks like a school headmaster, which I didn’t expect.

Back To The Future technology. No flying cars or real hoverboards came to life. (Neither did trash powered fusion reactors).

Doc Brown is correct in describing a smartphone as a ‘tiny supercomputer’. In the cold war that’s what devices of equivalent computing power would have been.

As for Doc Brown’s comments on using the smartphone for scientific calculations – back in the mid 1980s computers were still primarily organisational devices. Whilst email existed in academia and in-office communications it probably wouldn’t be known to the scriptwriters.  The script was written sometime before March 1984. Early 1984 was when personal computing would accelerate in adoption.

At the time perhaps 10 percent of my friends had a computer at home, which they played rudimentary games on. We had one rudimentary computer at school for students. Most people used it once to print their name with the dot matrix printer and that was about it.

The education authority had a collection of machines in a specialist lab which I was bussed to once for a special maths lesson over an afternoon and learned the basics of a spreadsheet.

Bulletin boards, AOL and Minitel were about to start a growth period in online communications.

But this would be still nothing like the impact that consumer web access would have.

One has to remember that some of the gadgets in Back To The Future like the JVC GRC-1 camcorder were revolutionary at the time. Driving everything from new content (skate Stacey Paralta’s skate videos) to documenting baby’s first steps and wedding ceremonies.

The one piece video camera inspired professional formats as well, making news-gathering more immediate. Crews could shoot on the go more easily. Have a portable editing suite in a van and then beam the footage back to the station via microwave or satellite dish.

My final take from Back To The Future day is that the future is full of superfluous technology that generally more vacuous than one might predict.

There is a whole wiki of Back To The Future related stuff here.