Back to the ‘80s: How Mobile Tech Has Surpassed Back to the Future’s Expectations

Great Scott! After three decades of anticipation, the future — or at least Marty McFly's future — is finally upon us.

It’s been 30 years since our favorite Brat Pack movies were released, and they are as popular as ever. These films helped define a generation and remain relatable today, even in this age of hyper-connectivity, technology and interaction. Leading up to today, better known as the day Marty McFly travels to the future, we’ll be exploring some of the most beloved ‘80s flicks under the lens of social media.

Great Scott! After three decades of anticipation, the future — or at least Marty McFly’s future — is finally upon us. In Back to the Future Part II, audiences were introduced to the futuristic innovations of the 21st century. In reality, many of these predictions weren’t far off.

While elements of our world resemble Marty’s, technology is much more streamlined than the movie envisioned. Let’s look at the movie’s interpretation of wearable and mobile tech, examining what’s on par, what’s evolved and what’s to come.


Up Close & Personal: Video Calls

While some features of the McFly home are too good to be true (here’s looking at you, hover car), others are a bit behind the curve. When Future Marty gets a call from Douglas Needles, audiences watch as his co-worker is suddenly projected across the television screen. Though revolutionary in 1989, the movie’s portrayal of video chat is now dated, reminiscent of Skype, circa 2008.

No longer tied to the big screen, family, friends and colleagues sync everywhere through a plethora of mobile apps. In just a swipe, we can video conference a remote co-worker via FaceTime or drop a loved one a line using WeChat, regardless of international borders. Social butterflies upload video clips to Snapchat, Vine and Instagram to instantly broadcast snippets of their lives to friends and followers.

In the last few months, live-streaming video platforms like Meerkat and Periscope have surged in popularity, allowing us to watch events, from Fashion Week to cat videos, in real-time as they unfold from anywhere in the world.

Food on Demand: Mobile Ordering

Back to the Future Part II set a new standard for the foodservice industry. From being waited on by Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson to guzzling Pepsi Perfect, residents of Hill Valley dined in style. Perhaps the most drool-inducing innovation was the fictional Black & Decker Hydrator, a voice-controlled device that cooked food nearly instantaneously. Audiences watched as Grandma Lorraine placed a slim, dehydrated pizza in the oven and it emerged, seconds later, a sizzling pepperoni pie.


While cooking is still a labor of love, innovations like “Tweet-a-Pizza” certainly streamline things. Forget robo-waiters; Dominos-lovers can order a pizza simply by tweeting the pizza emoji. Foodies seeking more variety can turn to GrubHub and Seamless to schedule their favorite meals, order Blue Apron to have recipes, the corresponding measured ingredients and perfectly paired wines delivered to their doorstep, and those yearning for a night on the town can quickly see who has availability for 4 at 7 p.m. on Friday night and reserve a table.

World at Our Fingertips: Touch Technology

Upon arriving in 2015, Marty and Jennifer are amazed by how much could be accomplished with the tap of a finger. After she’s tranquilized, Jennifer is quickly identified and driven to her future home by Officers Reese and Foley, who use her thumbprint to unlock the front door (something guests at contemporary hotels can already do). Hill Valley residents could also use their fingerprints to complete digital transactions. The Hill Valley Preservation Society used thumb scanners to collect donations to save the Courthouse while cab drivers used this technology to collect their fares — sound familiar?

Apple Pay entered the market with a splash in 2014, allowing users to make purchases by simply pressing their finger to the home button. In addition to being super streamlined, mobile payments add an increased layer of security to transactions, making it more difficult to input fraudulent charges. But we all know touch technology isn’t foolproof.

Even during the movie, a glimpse at a fictional USA Today foreshadowed some morbid concerns. To beat the system, criminals were amputating thumbs to gain access to high security areas. Back to the Future might be onto something; to keep our fingertips intact, we imagine the future will boast more sophisticated modes of identification. By the time 2025 rolls around, we all may be signing into devices with retinal scans and vein matching – technology that is already in use. How heavy is that?

Fashion Forward: Wearables

Back to the Future II depicts several instances of wearable technology from head to toe. Martin’s video glasses, which allow him to watch television remotely, resemble Google Glass, while Marlene’s video telephone screams (a less fashionable) iPhone, though both modern equivalents are far sleeker than their fictional counterparts.Marty is stunned after trying on his son’s jacket. Equipped with a button by the zipper, the jacket auto-adjusts to the wearer and dries itself when drenched.

Today, wearables are everywhere. While modern clothing is yet to auto-dry (although Dry-Fit technology is close), smart clothing offers other handy features, like measuring heart rate, breathing rate, workout intensity. Popular brand Uniqlo has created Heattech, clothing that absorbs moisture to generate heat and keep the wearer 1.5x warmer than other brands. With 3D printing exploding, I’d bet not too far off that fashionistas will print their own clothes.– better invent an expandable closet too!

While the future looks a tad different than predicted, 2015 is even more technologically advanced than Marty McFly could have dreamed. Innovations across food, fashion and communication have changed how we live our lives, allowing us to focus on what matters most — planning ahead for our own tomorrows.

Jen Todd Gray is the senior vice president of marketing and creative services at HelloWorld.