Setting the Future straight!

Definition of “The Future”:
The point in time to which Marty McFly first travelled at the beginning of “Back To The Future Part II”.

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet the last week, you will no doubt have seen this:

Ye olde “The Future Is Now” hoax.

The fact that June 27 was the Future has been much remarked upon and celebrated, and the above photo travelled far and wide to document the occasion.

Only it wasn’t a fact. And if you look closely (and by that I mean not even very closely) you should easily be able to see that yourself. The giveaway clue? See how the letters and digits in the top display don’t quite match the style of the bottom two.

For starters, the letters in “JUN” have slightly sharper edges and are ever so slightly less slanted. The shade of orange is not only more uniformly lit, but it doesn’t even quite match that of the orange numbers on the right, which it should. The difference isn’t all that great, but it’s noticeable if you have half an eye for that sort of thing.

What everyone who were fooled should have noticed (and by everyone I mean almost the entire news and media business along with everybody else) is the year. Seven-element LCD digits are pretty and cute and cool and very Eighties, but there’s one thing about them that makes the display of the year impossible: Seven-element LCD digits are rigid. They stay in place. They do not move. And they certainly don’t shift by half a digit the way the digits do here.

Digits enlarged.

Another thing that would be natural to do is to pop the DVD in the player and watch the movie, with an eager eye out for the tell-tale scenes. I know, that is so easy for me to say, but not everyone has a copy of the trilogy lying around the place. Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly enough to allow someone to do the logical thing and check the darn thing out.

So I did.

Screenshot from 0:23:54 into Part I

This is a screenshot that I made straight off the DVD. I was slightly surprised not to find this in “Back To The Future Part II” at all, which is when Marty, Doc and Jennifer all head futureward. Turns out, it’s actually the first time we see the panel in “Part I”, at 23 minutes 54 seconds into the movie, just after Doc Brown demonstrated the workings of his DeLorean time machine by sending his dog Einstein precisely one minute into the future. By the way, great job, Doc!

It may surprise you to find that this exact sort of thing has been done before. Don’t believe me? Watch:

It has all been done before, and better, too.

This one was actually done much, much better. Instead of typing in fake LCD digits and letters with a font which didn’t match the original at all, here someone has gone to the trouble of meticulously copying and pasting elements from the same picture so that they all match up. Almost. Anyway, this only shows that fiddling with the time travel displays in the DeLorean is nothing new.

But then, when all is said and done, where is the actual Future actually at? What did Doc say when Marty asked how far he was going?

“How far ahead will you go?”. 1:42:42 into “Part I”

Now, since the movie and everything that goes on in it is based in 1985, it would be odd indeed if Doc went 30 years ahead and landed in 2012. For starters, it’s 27 years which is not a round number. If nothing else, it would show that his wonderful invention was unreliable, which is bad if you go time travelling in it. Rather, it does show that information from random Internet sources is unreliable and inaccurate, which at least makes me feel safer if ever I find myself behind the wheel of a DeLorean.

Screenshot from 0:04:12 into Part II

This screenshot is just four minutes twelve seconds into the second movie. Alas, the frame omits the minutes (although my DVD is 16:9, the original movie may have been wider), but Doc does say the exact time out loud and this is where subtitles come in extremely helpful.

So when is the Future actually at?

October twenty-first, two thousand and fifteen,

at four twenty-nine PM, Pacific Standard Time.

Which amounts to

2015-10-21 23:29 UTC

if you want to be global and pedantic about it.

Now synchronize your watches and calendars, set countdown for the real Future, and keep waiting for those hoverboards 🙂

Back To The Future at
Back To The Future Part II at


2 Responses to Setting the Future straight!

  1. The Old Wolf says:

    Kan ikke like dette nok.

  2. Pingback: The Future is back again | inshadowz: out of context

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