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Back To The Future And A Peek At The Past

by on October 21, 2015 | Top Stories

If you could travel to the future, what would you think the world would look like in 25 years? A 1989 movie predicted a number of things in a scene that takes place on 21 October 2015. Just how many predictions did they get right and what did they miss?

There’s never been a time where technology played such a big role in our lives. From flat screen TVs to touch screen devices, there are gadgets in our homes, offices and cars – and when we are on the go, we continue to stay connected using smart phones, tablets, watches, and other cool devices.

In part 2 of the movie series ‘Back to the Future’, the star characters Doc Brown and Marty McFly bend time and travel to 2015 – yes! That’s where we are now. And the date was precisely 21 October 2015. While you may not know much about the movie, here are some interesting things they predicted that actually come close to life as we know today:

Besides flat screen TVs, the movie showed that people used video conferencing to communicate. Sound familiar? It should because these days, almost anyone with an Internet-enabled device can take part in real-time video conferencing like Skype, whatsapp, Face Time, Snap Chat and more.

In the movie, people also used biometric scanners for identification (uh-huh, we see them on our phones now). Before long, it won’t just be fingerprints, we could be using our eyes and heartbeat for biometric recognition.

What else? They also predicted that 3D and holograms were widely used. And one more thing, the movie showed widespread use of drones – Need to take your pet for a walk? Use a drone! OK, maybe we don’t have drones that do that yet but we definitely have drones that help with aerial view images and giving hobbyists a new obsession.

So maybe not all the predictions in the movie were accurate. For a start, we don’t have flying cars nor hover boards that defy gravity. And as much as it might humour our kids, no one has invented shoes that can lace itself. Although gyms have mushroomed everywhere these days, we still don’t see stationary bikes in cafes like in the movie. Do you think it would be a good idea for your local coffee shop to install a few bikes for its customers to exercise on while they wait for their latte? Hmmm… we think free Wi-Fi would beat them bikes any day.

As a student, what do you think is different in colleges and universities today compared to the late 80s or the early 90s? Here’s a peek into the past: #7 might shock you speechless.

  1. Computers were huge and most students couldn’t afford to have one – even if you did have one, you might have to study on the floor as the computer would have taken up the space of your entire desk.

  2. Typewriters – “What?” we here you say…. You might not have realised it but the previous generation were the true typing champions who had to type out essays and research papers. There’s no cut-copy-paste when you use the typewriter, and un-do meant having to re-type or using messy correction fluid which took ages to dry. Yup, there was no correction tape back then.
  3. Need to make a call? Get ready with a bag of coins and line up at the public payphone. Not only are these phones grimy (germ alert!), your conversation will be free for all to hear, especially the impatient queue of people behind you.
  4. Queueing formed a really big part of college life back then. Besides queuing for the phone at your hostel, or for food at the cafeteria, you also had to queue at the library to get a seat especially in the weeks leading up to exams. The reason was that all the reference books you needed but didn’t own were in the library (note: no Internet, in case you still don’t get it). And if someone has borrowed that book, yup, you got it – you queue to be the next person to use it. Note: Finding the book or newspaper article you needed required a unique skill set.

  5. When you have to make a copy of something, you usually copied it by hand if it were just a few pages long as it would be too much trouble to make a photocopy (yes, it would’ve meant queueing again). Seriously, we have it good today – we take photos when we take notes.
  6. Occasionally, you would gather in someone’s room to watch a game or a movie on TV. There’s no ‘astro’ – just your good ol’ local stations and you would have to adjust the antenna above the TV (sometimes according to weather conditions) to get a decent picture.
  7. Some lecture halls would have more sophisticated equipment but for the most part, professors delivered their lectures using an OHP projector. That’s like handwritten notes and drawings done on a piece of plastic projected on a screen – no colour, no animation, and definitely no special effects unless your lecturer is also some sort of entertainer.
  8. Getting news and announcements meant making regular trips past relevant notice boards (faculty, hostel, etc.). Other news come in the form of newsletters printed on paper.
  9. Waiting for exam results? They’re either mailed to you, posted on the board for all to see (horrors!), or if you’re lucky, some colleges offered a phone in service – students key in their student number and a recording of your subject name and grade will be read out to you.

  10. Students captured memories of college with a camera that used negative film. Usually, the photographer aka camera owner will pass round an album of photos once it has been processed, and attach an order form for everyone to place their orders. Definitely no group chats (Whatsapp, WeChat, Line, Facebook, Gtalk) to distribute the pics, and no cloud sharing either.

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