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I Want My Jet Pack

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We write the year 2015 ...

Cueball: It's 2011. I want my flying car.
Megan: Dude. You're complaining to me on a phone, on which you buy and read books, and which you were using to play a 3D shooter until I interrupted you with what would be a video call if I were wearing a shirt.
Cueball: Can't I have a flying car, too?
Megan: You'd crash it while texting and playing Angry Birds.

Speculative Fiction always seems to think that the future is going to be a lot more flashy and interesting than it actually turns out to be. The Year 2000 was supposed to give us lunar and undersea colonies, holographic radios, holographic movies, autodrying jackets, autolacing shoes, accurate-to-the-second weather reports, weather-control machines, hoverboards, lifelike androids, virtual reality, flying cars, food pills, robot buddies, laser weapons and most importantly, Jet Packs!

We've gotten a lot of cool stuff since the Turn of the Millennium. Such as...  But it's mostly not the cool stuff we were promised.

Ultimately, the works of the past that had all those sci-fi things have fallen victim to Zeerust, and now characters in modern works get to complain about the lack of those things in the modern day (or Fish out of Temporal Water in their own future get to complain that they still don't have them.) "This is the future? Where are the food cubes? Where are all the phaser guns? Where's the flying cars? I Want My Jet Pack!"

A side-effect of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. It's very easy to imagine fantastic tools that solve a dozen of today's problems at once, or combine features of two or more unrelated present-day artifacts. It's harder to do the math on how much they would cost to build, the power input they would need to be used regularly, or the cost and potential side problems when released to the general market. Even if it could feasibly be made a reality, some ideas just aren't worth it in Real Life. As a matter of fact, jetpacks have been a reality since the 1960s, and can even be bought today. The bad news is, they're pretty unimpressive.

This trope is also largely a result of changing technological trends. Much of our classic sci-fi technology is ultimately rooted in the Jet Age, with its Cold War-driven focus on spacecraft and industrial gadgetry. Instead, technology turned more towards miniaturised computers and consumer electronics, and so much of today's speculative fiction now envisions a future full of nano-computers, neural networks, implausible user-interfaces, and so forth, while cars remain firmly on solid ground; but it may very well be that these visions of the future will turn out just as accurate as the old ones. After all, Moore's Law being on its deathbed while nanotechnology and artificial intelligences still being far from as powerful as sci-fi authors promised they'd be certainly isn't helping their case.

Incidentally, it's become fashionable in more recent works to set the story really far in the future (as in, centuries or more), so no one seeing the work now will be alive in the year it's set to complain about how inaccurate it is.

This trope is named for the punchline to Leo's rant in an episode of The West Wing all about how we didn't get the future we were promised. Also summed up in the Tom Smith Filk Song "I Want My Flying Car."


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Astro Boy: A rather bizarre version of this occurs in the manga. In one of the introduction comics that Osamu Tezuka was fond of adding to the paperback collections of his work, Mustachio interrupts Tezuka's narration and pesters him about why, if it's supposed to be the future, does nearly everything aside from the robots look like the present, complains that he has to wear a threadbare old suit and bowtie instead of Space Clothes, drives a beat up old 1950s auto instead of a flying car and lives in a dirty one-bedroom flat. In a possible Take That!, the 1980s anime did have flying cars, but they look rather Zeerusty and often get into some rather horrific crashes, which cost the lives of two major characters on two separate occasions. Tekuza then goes on to explain that his manga started predicting the future right around the time it started to be the future, so several of his ideas like massive TVs and tiny phones started to be made while he was still making the manga. Plus, Mustachio likes being old-fashioned. The one time he was given a futuristic house, he was very uncomfortable with it and went back to his traditional home. Oh, and Astro Boy himself was built in 2003.
  • The original 1974 version of Doraemon is set in the mid 70s and frequently takes the main characters to different points in the future. One of those points is Nobita's days as an adult and a parent, which presumably happen between the 90s and the 2000s (given that Nobita is born in 1964 and his kid is about 10). The technology shown in this period is way beyond anything we actually have in real life, including flying bikes, a handheld rapid digging device and time machines.
  • The second opening song of Great Teacher Onizuka has a verse about how cars aren't flying yet.
  • According to Neon Genesis Evangelion, after an apocalyptic event which occurred in the year 2000 and killed half the world's population we would have Humongous Mecha in 2015. And still use those same televisions, computers, and telephones that were made in the 90s. This is perhaps justified by the mass societal collapse that came with the Second Impact stunting technological development for a whole 15 years (which in a world of Eldritch Abomination Angels and the Dead Sea Scrolls existing, wouldn't be the most implausible thing to happen, especially with more than half of the world's population dead by the time the dust settles). Rebuild has late-2000s versions of all those gadgets for no particular reason. This gets especially absurd when the Rebuild movies have Shinji listening to music on a Walkman despite it being abundantly clear by the time they were made that this isn't exactly appropriate for 2015.
  • Ghost in the Shell, when it was written in 1989 speculated that in 2029 technology would advance to the point where Brain Uploading, Neural Implanting, and Brain/Computer Interface would be commonplace and what the definition of humanity would be questioned. These themes have remained unchanged through each iteration of the story even as the real world gets closer to 2029 without the nature of man and machine blurring.

  • The theme of Mitch Benn's 2015 show That Was the Future, which opened with the song "We Were Promised Hoverboards". Mitch also suggests that the reason we'll never get Flying Cars is financial: maybe someone could afford to own one, but nobody could afford to insure one.
  • Eddie Izzard, when talking about Star Trek, laments the fact that basically the only futuristic technology predicted in the original series that actually came about was automatic sliding doors.

    Comic Books 
  • Scott McCloud's indie comic Zot! had the title character as a visitor to our world from a world where all the wonderful inventions and social progress we'd been promised by '50s and '60s sci-fi came about.
  • In the DC comic Doctor Thirteen: Architecture and Morality, Doctor Thirteen, in a rant, mentions he's still waiting for the shiny jetpack, and later one of the Architects (who bears a certain resemblance to Grant Morrison) shouts out "The Fewcha! The Shiny Jetpack Fewcha!"
  • X-Factor:
    • When Jamie is transported 80 years into the future:
      Jamie: So, do we all have flight rings or personal jetpacks?
      Scott: Don't be an idiot.
      Jamie: [thinking] The future sucks.
    • Doubles as a Lampshade Hanging, since later in the same storyline, Trevor Fitzroy would arrive on the scene flying using (you guessed it) a jet pack! Plus, even in Jamie's own time superheroes such as Iron Man actually do have personal rocket-powered flight. The Fantastic Four not only has (and very publicly uses) more than one model of Flying Car, but in a later storyline Reed Richards was shown as having provided his son and daughter with anti-gravity flight jackets, a technology that apparently never ended up becoming publicly-available!
  • This Superman cover, it's rather self-explanatory. Though it was a good point about commas.
  • The Warren Ellis comic book Doktor Sleepless features a certain amount of this. The lines "Where's my fucking jetpack?" and "You owe me a flying car" are spraypainted on walls, and the phrases themselves form part of the title character's rant about how people are disappointed by how the "future" turned out, where they have all the astounding things we have now that nobody ever dreamed of then and then some.
    "There's no future coming. No-one thinks they owe you shit. You're waiting for a day that'll never fucking dawn."
  • Carl Barks' Rip Van Donald has Donald Duck's nephews pulling a prank on their uncle by giving him a fake beard while he sleeps under a palm tree, telling him he slept for forty years. Donald doesn't believe and wants a proof that he really woke up forty years into the future, so nephews quickly make up stuff like winter homes on Venus or counter-gravitation devices. The story was originally released in 1950, which would place this far-off future in the year...1990.
  • In Marvel: The Lost Generation, 50s-60s hero the Yankee Clipper arrives in the 1980s due to some time travel mix-up. He's baffled - "Where are the flying cars? The videophones? Things don't look that different... except for the fashions!"
  • Similarly, in The Twelve, WWII era hero Captain Wonder's first reaction upon discovering he'd been in suspended animation for over sixty years was to complain about the near-total absence of rocket cars. This is the Marvel Universe, so rocket cars certainly exist (like the Fantastic Four's Fantasticar, for instance), but nothing like that's ever been mass produced.
  • In Judge Dredd, the inhabitants of Mega-City One are known to have mental breakdowns ("Future Shock") from being unable to cope with how squalid, shallow, harsh, polluted, degraded and downright crappy the future turned out to be.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin gives one of these rants in one strip:
    Hobbes: A new decade is coming up.
    Calvin: Yeah, big deal! Hmph. Where are the flying cars? Where are the moon colonies? Where are the personal robots and the zero gravity boots, huh? You call this a new decade?! You call this the future?? HA! Where are the rocket packs? Where are the disintegration rays? Where are the floating cities?
    Hobbes: Frankly, I'm not sure people have the brains to manage the technology they've got.
    Calvin: I mean, look at this! We still have weather?! Give me a break!
    • Another comic has Calvin fantasizing that his morning routine is a lot more exciting than it really is, including his dad flying to work in a fancy rocket pack suit. In the 10th anniversary collection, Bill Watterson remarks that he'd love to have a suit like that. Oddly enough, for a kid of the 1980/1990s, Calvin's "futuristic" fantasy is based on 1950s sci-fi and riddled with zeerust. The Boy-O-Matic machine is even made of bakelite with a teist-knob control! Anybody would think this was written by a middle-aged man looking back to what he thought The Future would look like when he was a boy..Oh, right!
  • The Non Sequitur strip for July 11, 2012 has Danae researching what to expect for the future. As a result, Flo and Captain Eddie remember the flying cars they were promised and yell "We want our flying cars!" Danae takes this as a sign to lower her expectations.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Transformers: The Movie (released in 1986) infamously begins with a narrator intoning "It is the year 2005...", then showing a future with rocket-powered hoverboards, full-body exo-suits, and everyone wearing white jumpsuits everywhere. That said, it could be that the presence of the Autobots on Earth has sped up technology quite a bit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Metropolis, made in 1927, doesn't say how far in the future it is set. But to be fair, it doesn't really matter as it depicts the future pretty much without any futuristic technology. Sure, the buildings got higher, but elevated roads and skyscrapers existed already back then, as did the concepts of underground cities, standardised morse-tickers and sub-terranean pumping systems. The aircraft and automobiles are also modeled after the real things of the time, and the clothing still consists of overalls, knickerbockers and tailcoat sets of the swinging twenties. What actually changed in the film's future are the living standards and the moralities, and that is the story's great tragedy. Corporations actually are more powerful now in present times, too. Perfectly human robots, on the other hand, still aren't around.
  • The Net features a variety of computerized records and automated systems as ubiquitous despite the fact that in 1995 many such systems were rare or nonexistent. One particularly notable example was a computerized medical record system which doctors relied on so heavily that hackers were able to use it to trick them into giving a patient an insulin overdose. Medical records are only just now being stored in online systems.
  • Back to the Future series
    • Back to the Future: The trope is played with in an early draft. Marty reveals to 1952 Doc Brown that the time machine's nuclear power source is catalyzed with Coca-Cola. When he gets back to 1982, he finds that it's been transformed into a Zeerust pseudo-future, essentially what people in the 50s thought the 80s would be like, complete with flying cars and jet packs - Marty's dad actually complains about a monthly power bill that's over two dollars (though it's also implied that the dollar stopped inflating due to Brown's inventions — George chews Biff out for slacking as a security guard despite being paid a whole 50 cents an hour, well above minimum wage... in 1962 dollars); as a result of the movie's events, Brown abandoned time travel research and focused on Coke-catalyzed nuclear energy, which has made him the most respected and richest scientist in history. Rock and Roll never caught on, but it's implied that Marty is about to embark on a career as a rock star, replaying various songs from his home time from memory.
      • Traces of this theme survive in the eventual film, when the 1955 Doc repeatedly makes outrageously inaccurate predictions about life in 1985 ("Radiation suit? Of course... 'cause of all the fallout from the atomic wars." and "I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drug-store, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by!")
    • Back to the Future Part II is a prime example of this trope. A French engineer actually managed to build a functioning hoverboard (inspired by the film, no less), but supporting a person's weight would require more power than a skateboard-sized body could hold. Nike made a version of the power-lacing sneakers for charity. They're even trying to make something along the lines of Mr. Fusion. We do have video calling now, though that concept has actually been in development, at the latest, since the 1930s. Fingerprint scanners are becoming common, and the idea of someone watching six channels at once isn't as ridiculous as it used to be, except that it would be on a computer screen instead of a TV. And maybe cars can't run on Coke, but there have been cars designed to run on garbage, so who knows?
      • On the DVD commentary, the movie's creators stated that they were worried about this phenomenon since when making movies set in the future, "nobody ever gets it right". So they simply decided to make the entire future a series of running jokes (the '80s nostalgia cafe,note  Jaws 19, and kids wearing their pants inside-out are clearly things that weren't meant to be taken seriously).
      • Ironically, the closest thing to an aversion in the film, exists entirely as a Take That! towards a certain professional baseball team, that (at the time) last won a World Series in 1908. Considering the 81 year drought when the film was released, being only a single year off, when making a prediction 26 years in advance, of the year that the Cubs would finally escape that drought, is pretty impressive. Beyond that though, everything else about the event was wrong. The Cubs didn't sweep (it went all 7 games, and even into extra innings in game 7), the World Series is still only seven games (instead of the nine it would require for a 5-game sweep), and likely due to not wanting to insult the fans of a real team, they chose to make a fictitious team the Butt-Monkey. That said, since the movie came out, Florida did end up getting not one, but two professional baseball teams - but neither one has anything to do with alligators (Likely due to the fact that "Gators" is already associated with the University of Florida), and the team that calls Miami home, the Miami Marlins, is in the same league as the Cubs (National League), meaning they could never play each other in a World Series. In fact, they played each other in the 2003 NLCS, which the Marlins won in 7.
  • In the movie The Thirteenth Floor a man in the 1990s discovers he's really in a VR simulation of the 90s created in 2024. At one point he gets to see what 2024 looks like, and the buildings are all bizarre "futuristic" things out of Buck Rogers. Of course, the ending hints that maybe even this world is really a simulation.
  • The 1992 movie Freejack has the hero as a Fish out of Temporal Water in a cyberpunk world where mega-corporations oppress the downtrodden masses and the wealthy elite use time travel to steal people from the past and swap bodies with them to remain immortal, all with the help of visored, laser-wielding mercenaries. And it's all going to happen in the dystopian future of 2009.
  • The classic science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted that by the start of the 21st century we'd have commercial space stations, lunar colonies and archaeological excavations, and manned missions to Jupiter led by AI supercomputers (unfortunately AI is still a crapshoot). The film's title has become so iconic, though, that the failure of real life to live up to those predictions hasn't hurt the movie. Some aspects (like video calling) have become possible though. The film also had very modern-looking tablets. Samsung even used a clip from the film in defense of Apple's lawsuit against them, pointing out that Apple didn't invent the look of the iPad.
  • In the 2000 film Mission to Mars 2020 is depicted as a tidy future with NASA having developed 2001-looking Centrifugal Gravity systems for their spaceships and for the ISS, now World Space Station, and successful manned missions to Mars.
  • Explored in The Time Machine (2002), where Alexander invents a time machine in 1899 and, after unsuccessfully trying to save his Love Interest, goes to the future to try to find out why, expecting people to have already expanded on the technology. In 2030, he is disappointed to find that time travel has not become commonplace. As a matter of fact, he himself is considered as a crackpot by history, and time travel is seen as an impossibility. Now, they do have some impressive tech in 2030, such as interactive AI, Lunar travel, and, apparently, DNA resequencing on living people. Then he accidentally ends up in the distant future, where a man-made disaster has resulted in humanity being thrown back to the Stone Age, never to recover.
  • The Purge shows that by 2022, America would be a crime-free utopia where every year, there would be a 12 hour period where all crimes, including murder, was legal. It's now 2022, and there is still no Purge! The NFFA would have also came into power in 2014, yet none of that happened, though it takes place in an Alternate Universe.
  • In Oblivion (2013) it is shown that by 2017 we'd have space travel advanced enough to allow a manned mission to Titan, and very durable Human Popsicle escape pods that can take the occupants all the way back to Earth.
  • Discussed in Singles, when Janet says as a kid, she imagined by the time she turned 23 (the same age she is in the movie), people would be traveling in air locks.

  • Satirized in William Gibson's short story The Gernsback Continuum, set in 1980; the central character finds himself inadvertently "peeking" into an alternate 1980 — the one imagined by 1930s filmmakers, in which everyone lives in monumental towered cities, the average car looks like "an aluminum avocado with a shark's fin", and people wear "white togas and Lucite sandals" and say things like, "John, we've forgotten to take our food pills."
  • Similarly satirized in the Strugatsky Brothers book Monday Begins on Saturday with a machine that allows the user to travel into future narratively imagined possibilities.
  • Kibo's short story Spot's Third First Christmas parodies perceived time travel. A choose-your-own adventure set in 1993, the reader must either choose to go into the dim-and-distant future, or into the all-too-near future. Both paths end up in the year 2000, but with fixtures being either exciting (Man has figured out how to tint the sun a pleasant shade of blue) or dull (Beer was still nine cents a gallon).
  • Parodied in Kim Newman's short story "Tomorrow Town", which is set in a 1970s community of experimental futurists and deliberately designed to project a contemporary view of what the year 2000 would look like — with a pair of outsider detectives, assigned to investigate a murder, quick to realize that their vision of the future is completely unworkable.
  • Where's My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson is based off this concept. It lists the most common things they promised us by now (jet packs, flying cars, Human Popsicle), how close we are to perfecting them, and what we still need to do.
  • Eric Frank Russell's novel Sinister Barrier (first serialized in 1939) had people in the late 20th century making audio recordings on Blattnerphones. You know... Blattnerphones?
  • Spoofed in Masters of the Metropolis by Randall Garrett, in which a man views our contemporary society with the same wonder as the protagonist in Ralph 124c41+ , the classic 1912 scientifiction novel by Hugo Gernsback about the wonders of the future.
    Threading his way through the crowds which thronged the vaulted interior of the terminal, he came to a turnstile, an artifact not unlike a rimless wheel, whose spokes revolved to allow his passage. He placed a coin in the mechanism, and the marvelous machine — but one of the many mechanical marvels of the age — recorded his passage on a small dial and automatically added the value of this coin to the total theretofore accumulated. All this, mind, without a single human hand at the controls!
  • Mostly averted in Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne (written in the 1860's and set in the 1960's) which predicts everything from elevators, cars, underground trains, electric light, telephones to hippies. Sadly, however, we have not reached the point of ending war. (Incidentally, the manuscript was originally rejected for being too implausible.) Another book set in the 28th century has people talking over a "screen" even though they're miles away and people watching televised programs on said screens.
  • In a similar vein to Where's My Jetpack? above, Your Flying Car Awaits by Paul Milo. It covers everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, many of the predictions from the Paleo-Future site mentioned in Real Life below, and offers thoughtful (and quite often tongue-in-cheek) commentary on what these predictions say about the time in which they were made rather than the future predicted. Among the gems noted: talking dolphins, underwater cities, a 200 year lifespan, space tourism as of 2000, nuclear explosions used for commercial demolition, engineered man-made oceans covering the planet, and weather as predictable and controllable as a train schedule. With the development of gene therapy and other tech, that 200 year lifespan is (slowly) becoming a lot less implausible than first thought, while the rest are still less so.
  • While Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles is loaded with this trope (as travel to Mars becomes common early in the 21st Century), one story contains a particularly weird offshoot of this phenomenon, where blacks in Mississippi steal away on a rocket to Mars to escape racism. The problem is that the blacks are depicted as obsequious, saying things like "Yes, sir, boss," even though the story takes place in 2010. Bradbury wrote the book in the early 1950s, before the full flower of the civil rights movement, so maybe he had an excuse.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Door into Summer has commercially available cryonic suspended animation available in 1970. The future in his Have Space Suit – Will Travel has moon colonies in the same culture as 1950s-style soda fountains, and the hero uses a slide rule. In I Will Fear No Evil, set around the year 2015, a successful brain transplant takes place, but the hero-heroine has to wait several days for the result of her pregnancy test.
  • Very much Andrew's reaction in In the Keep of Time to discovering the future is not that of The Jetsons. Made more intriguing (and amusing) by the exact predictions he makes for the twenty-second century.
    Andrew: By the twenty-second century, every house should have its own computers and robots and maybe people would talk by telepathy.
  • Briefly discussed in Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself, when Evan leaves the prison after seven years and admires how the world changed during this time. When he notices that cars look a little different, it is mentioned that he kind of expected people to have hover cars at this point - although on the other hand, he is also amazed that everyone has those tiny cellphones that look like Star Trek props.
  • Stephen Baxter's Titan (written in 1997) has in the year 2008 full Virtual Reality simulations as commonplace, people could go to cybercafes and interact with others using interactive masks that simulated the feeling of the wind, sun, smells and even tastes.
  • David Brin's Existence, set in 2050, has The Singularity fill in the traditional roll of jet-packs as retro futurism that never came to be.
  • John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion opens with the grim announcement "The future failed to arrive."
  • The Time Machine: The Time Traveler travels to the distant year 802701, expecting to see all those marvelous achievements of humankind, and what does he find? A scavenger world inhabited by tiny childish people who think he fell from the sun. He later admits he didn't even properly prepare himself for the trip since he expected to find a future that could provide him with everything he would possibly need.
  • A non-futuristic example occurs in the 1925 Polish novel Przedwiosnie, where the protagonist tricks his spoiled son into going back to Poland with him by taking advantage of his obsession with communism and lying about Poland being a socialist paradise where everyone lives in futuristic, affordable houses assembled out of prefabricated glass elements, with things like air conditioning and automated cleaning. The boy takes the bait and leaves Baku with his father on a train, but he becomes disillusioned soon after crossing the Polish border (by which point his father died from fatigue) and arriving in a sleepy one-horse town with muddy roads, where he encounters barefoot peasants dancing to fiddle music. He then invokes the trope by saying "Where are your glass houses, dad?"
  • Fate/strange fake: Alexandre Dumas is summoned in the modern day as False Caster for the Holy Grail War. Dumas remarks that although he is impressed by modern technology, he's disappointed that teleportation devices haven't been invented yet.
  • Averted in Emilio Salgari's one science-fiction novel, The Marvels of the Year 2000: written in 1907, it actually predicts the future with extreme accuracy (even including a counterpart of nuclear weapons and their existence generating a doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction to enforce peace), only lacking cell phones and airplanes (replaced by airships).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the 2000-2002 era of the British panel show Have I Got News for You, comedian Paul Merton mused about the lack of jet packs at the present time which he had expected to see when he was younger. He then went on to speculate that only the rich and powerful had them, accusing the Queen Mother of having five.
    • This turned into a Running Gag where Merton would attempt to fit a mention of "jetpacks" into every single episode of that season; for example: Suggesting that penguins in the Falklands could use jetpacks to right themselves after falling over.
    • Similarly, after Prince William (being nervous to meet Britney Spears) was described as 'hovering at the table', Paul immediately cut in with "He must have his own jetpack!" Conversely, in a later episode they were presented with an example of a modern effort at a jet pack and it was Paul who said they would obviously never catch on, because "imagine fifteen people coming out of a pub" late at night, strapping on their jet packs and flying home. Clearly a recipe for disaster.
  • That '70s Show:
    • In an episode, Red muses on what he thought life was going to be like by that point when he was off at war, done in the style of a 1950's educational film. The fantasy ends with Eric asking to borrow the car and Red telling him to take the hovercraft instead. Back in reality Kitty gives him an odd look. "Hovercraft?" He then shouts angrily, "What? They promised us hovercrafts! Just another damn broken promise."
    • Another episode has Red playing Santa Claus, a little girl says she wants a flying car for Christmas. Red's reply? "Yeah, so did I, when I was your age. But then the future came and took my dream away. Just like it will take away yours."
    • Another episode uses a deliberately over-the-top version of the future when Laurie is dating Kelso, and Red is imagining what their future will be like. The Formans live in a house resembling Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Fez is their robot butler, Serv-O-Tro 2000, and Red takes a jetpack to Saturn on business for a week, warning Kelso that it's off to the asteroid mines if he doesn't have a job by the time Red gets back.
    • In another episode, the guys are playing a primitive hand-held video game and commenting that it was as good as it would get.
  • Invoked in "Marty McFly & Doc Brown Visit Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and the short film "Back to the 2015 Future", bringing attention to the absence of flying cars.
  • Used by Stephen Colbert when interviewing Van Jones, an environmentalist advocating major changes in the job market to create a 'green economy':
    Colbert: But how do we know this is even gonna happen?... When I was a kid, they promised me a jetpack. Where's my jetpack? (pointing to wrist) Where's my little TV?
    • Right here. Amusingly, this device is, as of June 12, 2009, obsolete. It supports NTSC (a prior broadcast standard), not ATSC (current broadcasting standard). Cursory web searches reveal many very small ATSC televisions, but none that fit on wrists. Wrist-watch TV remote controls, however, are common.
    • In early April 2010, when discussing the cancellation of NASA's Constellation program to send humans back to the moon, Stephen Colbert switched to a pitcure of a guy wearing a rocket pack and yelled, "I want my jet pack!!"
  • Also used by Lewis Black in the Back in Black segment of The Daily Show:
    Black: New rule, no combining old gadgets when you should be working on something new. Like a jetpack! Or a teleporter! IT'S 2003! Why can't I teleport?!
  • The BBC Two programme James May's Big Ideas uses this question as a template to investigate real life flying cars, robot buddies, and energy sources.
  • Lost in Space imagined we'd have technology capable of sending ships to Alpha Centauri by 1997.
  • Space: 1999. We were supposed to be disposing of all our nuclear waste by sending it to a multinationally-crewed permanent moonbase ten years ago!
  • Quantum Leap: The viewer rarely gets to see the "present" (the late 1990's), presumably to avoid this trope. Usually when it is seen some odd technological advances pops up. Many of these are justified by the Project being a top-secret research facility utilizing the latest technological advances not available to the public yet, but some are not, like an episode with a voice-controlled hotel room.

    Subverted in an episode where a kid in the past asks Al if the air is clean and if there are flying cars in the future. Al responds that the air is filthy and the cars are still on the ground, but they're working on it.
  • Referenced in Pushing Daisies when Ned says that he thought the car of the future would fly.
  • An episode of Seinfeld had Jerry and George wondering about what happened to moving sidewalks.
    • The Cold Open to "The Dealership" had them discussing the frustrating absence of the long-promised Flying Car.
      Jerry: Well, what do you think the big holdup is?
      George: The government is very touchy about us being in the air. Let us run around on the ground as much as we want; anything in the air is a big production.
      Jerry: Yeah, right. And what about the floating cities?
      George: And the underwater bubble cities?
      Jerry: It's like we're living in the 50s here.
  • McGee on NCIS has just been outed as a jetpack, no, rocket belt expert nerd, to the point where he has made a short film detailing their history and credited it to his authorial pseudonym. He does get to sort-of fulfill his dream by remote-controlling a jetpack being used by a killer to escape, although that, pretty much, amounts to him flying a drone with a person inside.
  • Leo McGarry uses the lack of jetpacks as a specific example of his grievances against NASA and their history of overpromising on an episode of The West Wing.
  • In an inversion, George Bluth of Arrested Development found out that there was a relatively safe and easy-to-use jetpack in 2005... if you could speak Japanese.
  • Parodied in Conan O'Brien's "In the Year 2000" segments, which predicted wildly futuristic events, even though the segments started only a few years before 2000. The sketches continued into and past the year 2000 without altering the sketch (including its name), making the essential premise even funnier. With his move to The Tonight Show, changed to "In the Year 3000". The joke also changed: Everything in the year "3000" was clearly about 2009.
  • Spoofed and then subverted in Eureka. The time-traveling Dr. Grant is disappointed that the modern-day world lacks flying cars and robotic servants. It actually has the latter, as well as many other amazing gadgets. It's just that on the surface, Eureka presents itself as an average town. Just beneath that is the wonder, which Grant learns of in short order.
  • Long-running British science documentary show Tomorrow's World tried to showcase current trends in scientific discovery, design, and practical applications for that science, to predict what we might be using and buying a couple of years in the future. It ran for thirty-eight years and possibly thousands of inventions, and the most anyone can remember is that it successfully predicted sat-nav maybe fifteen years ahead of time. This show's earnest, very British, tone and delivery was parodied as spoof science show Look Around You. TW was possibly also hampered in that it screened on a Thursday night immediately before Top of the Pops and viewers were, at most, only politely interested in the nerdy half-hour just before the night's real attraction.
  • On The Flash, this is pretty much how the Ghost, a villain from the 1950s, reacts when he awakens from cryogenic sleep in 1990 expecting a Raygun Gothic world.
  • "I want my jetpack" is the basis of a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch. It's a huge success sales-wise, but not at all in terms of safety.
  • On The Mentalist, after a witness posts video of a murder on YouTube:
    Cho: Welcome to the future.
    Wainwright: They promised us jetpacks and they give us compromised investigations.
  • There is a Running Gag on Bitchin'Kitchen in which Nadia asks what more you could ask for, and then promptly answers "I know. a compact/hybrid/tandem jetpack," followed by a rant about how impractical it would be.
  • In the Angel episode "Dead End", Angel comments that he assumed the world would be like The Jetsons by the 2000s.
  • SeaQuest DSV, the first season of which is set in 2018, is on the verge of being this.

  • Sean McGaughey's Filk Song The Future Ain't What it Used to Be.
  • Mark Horning's Filk Song Past Futures.
  • Donald Fagen's song "I.G.Y."
    • Of particular note, the line "Well by '76 we'll be A.O.K." — the song was released in 1982. On the other hand, the lyrics get progressively more ironic and/or creepy, so it might be a subversion (and the Zeerust adds to that impression).
    • Fagen was playing it relatively straight here; the entire album it came from, The Nightfly, was an Homage to this trope and Fagen's 1950s childhood. Compare it to, say, "King of the World" or "Sign In Stranger" (Steely Dan's takes on The Future) and it's a lot less dark.
  • Flight of the Conchords make fun of this trope with their song Robots, which they supposedly wrote "some time ago":
    • It is the distant future, the year two thousand. We are robots. The world is quite different ever since the robotic uprising of the late nineties.
  • Similarly, in 2006, the indie rock band Tokyo Police Club released a single titled "Citizens of Tomorrow", which tells of humankind being enslaved by robots in the far-off year of 2009.
  • "Future" by Todd Rundgren.
  • An actual indie band from Glasgow is called "We Were Promised Jetpacks".
  • "Where's My Jetpack" by Tim Wilson.
    We made it to Mars and now the President's black, but where the fuck is my jetpack?
  • The song "(It's the Eighties So Where's Our) Rocket Packs," from Daniel Amos's 1984 album Vox Humana, laments "I thought by now" we'd have such marvels of the future as hover cars, picture phones, and robot maids. And such remarkable novelties as a female president and clear communication between all people.
  • The song "The World Before Later On" by They Might Be Giants.
  • Deliberately invoked and parodied in the song Future Earth 2010 AD by fictional synth-pop duo Donkey Hotrod, which was allegedly a minor hit in the year 1979. In reality, the song was written and recorded in 2010 by British comedy group No Cause For A Llama, so all the "predictions" about life in 2010 are deliberately inaccurate:
    I can fit my computer into just one room
    Here in my house upon the moon
    Visiting Uranus really soon, in 2010 AD!

    Music is all on cassette
    And we all commute to work by jet
    The rain never falls, so we don't get wet, in 2010 AD!
  • While the future and technology in general are common themes in Machinae Supremacy albums, the titular track off "A View From The End Of The World" directly invokes this and other predictions that fell flat:
    I want some flying cars, a ticket to the stars-
    or even just a world without religious wars!
  • Seth Sentry's Dear Science is made of this trope, with the singer's persona grudgingly admitting some of the good things science has done, whilst lamenting the lack of more raygun-punk achievements; the recurring refrain is about how much science has "let me down" and he repeatedly asks where his hoverboard is.
  • YACHT's 2015 album I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler invokes this trope, with the Title Track in particular satirizing the modern world of The New '10s as being significantly less groovy as everyone thought they'd be, with the advanced technology they're surrounded by being a lot more predatory in nature.
  • The Axis of Awesome has "Why Aren't Lasers Doing Cool Shit?", about what a letdown it is that lasers are only used to do things like correct vision problems and write CDs instead of blow up the evil alien hordes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A major theme in Genius: The Transgression, the roleplaying game of mad science. Many Geniuses style their Wonders after the future they imagined, and entire Bardos can be created from dreams broken by cold, hard reality. (The rest are created by disproved scientific theories and beliefs.)
    • The Atomist Baramin is explicitly based on this trope- they want the technology the 20th century thought might remedy all wrongs. They believe that their wonders are the 'jetpacks' they were promised, and refuse to believe that there is a reason these things never came to be, and dismiss the possibility that the human element makes a techno-utopia impossible.
    • It's also theorized that we would have all the jetpacks and flying cars of a Raygun Gothic future... if the Lemurians still had their way. But they were mostly overthrown by the Renaissance, and scientific progress since then has been real, not just whatever the Lemurians decided would best fit their goals.
  • The Technocracy from Mage: The Ascension is half this, half Machine Worship. By the time they've effectively "won" the Ascension War in Revised Edition, they learn the hard way that they spent so much time trying to tamp down on "reality deviants" that they never really managed to get humanity behind the idea of The World of Tomorrow.
    • Worse: to effectively wipe out competing paradigms, they destroyed humanity's sense of wonder. So that instead of humanity as a whole Ascending (which was the Technocracy's original reason for being founded), they've created a humanity that settles. Not that the Syndicate sees anything wrong with that...
    • As time passes, however, it becomes apparent that humanity's sense of wonder hasn't been snuffed out, but instead has found new directions of expression - much to the Technocracy's chagrin, because it means they've lost control. Not that they're about to let on to non-Technocrats.
  • Averted in Shadowrun. In the year 2070, there are not only personal jetpacks but flying cars, automatic weapons small enough to be easily concealable, laser guns, vibroswords, and all of the stuff resulting from the Awakening (including dragons).
    • Note that one Shadowrun novel lampshades the fact that the world isn't even more advanced, blaming it on the Crash Virus of 2029 and other disasters.
  • The book GURPS Alternate Earths (a supplement for the roleplaying game GURPS) includes an Alternate Universe that looks like 1930s pulp SF. It diverged from "real" history when Nikola Tesla married Anne Morgan, the daughter of J.P. Morgan; the marriage stabilized him emotionally and financially, and let him develop all the devices that died with him in the real world. And of course, it's called "Gernsback".
  • Rocket Age revels in all the things we thought we might have in the future. You will never have to ask where your jet-pack is, or your flashy sky car, or your rocket board.

    Video Games 
  • Mortal Kombat 11, from past Johnny Cage:
    Johnny: I've been in the future for one hour, and I have not seen even one jetpack. Not one.
  • Metal Gear:
  • Some of the games from the original Mega Man series take place in the ambiguous year of "200X". More recent titles, including a remake of the original game, have bumped this up to "20XX".
    • The Mega Man Battle Network was full of this trope back in the early two thousands. While we don't have ovens run by computers that could make them shoot fire if infected by viruses, we do have TV screens flat enough to roll up like posters, and basically everything about PETs except Navis are embodied in the modern iPhone. Even then, one can make a convincing case for Siri as the Real Life equivalent of a Navi. It also has less than ideal parts of the future, such as the large amount of cyberterrorism, though usually in a more fantastical manner than what happens in real life.
  • Uplink, which takes place in 2010, has 60 GHz computer processors considered slow by the game universe's standards. And no mention of multicore processing which more or less put an end to ever-rising processor frequency.
  • Aerobiz: Some aircraft featured in the game were designs expected (by the dev team) to enter full production, but never even made it off the drawing board, such as the McDonnell-Douglas MD-12. In a What Could Have Been sense, if McDonnell-Douglas' MD-12 had come to fruition, it would have basically been the Airbus A380 about 10 years earlier.
  • In the X-Universe's backstory, by 2011 quantum computers dominate the computing market, and nanotechnology is nearing practical use. Come 2022, Japanese hasn't becomes the favored language of science, nor has a grad student in Tokyo blundered into the principles behind building jumpgates.
  • In the first Timesplitters game, the level "Cyberden" is a Cyborg-filled base. The year the level takes place in is 2005. Incidentally in TimeSplitters 2, the level "Neo Tokyo" , which according to Chastity Detroit's bio is meant to be a prequel to "Cyberden", actually takes place at a later date, so apparently the developers caught this.
  • The original .hack series of games took place in 2010, by which point gamers were playing MMOs with VR headsets. In reality, VR gaming is still in its infancy: while great strides have been made with the Oculus Rift, the technology is still not available for the average gamer.
  • Shockwave has the Omaha, a United Nations-built carrier for space fighters hanging out in Earth's orbit in 2019.
  • OutRun 2019 has you drive a jet-powered car that can reach 692 mph / 341 km/h / 341 mph (depending on the regional version) through what appear to be public roads. While there are cars that have reached 692 miles per hour, they're non-street-legal cars specialized to reach that speed; don't expect to see a rocket car blasting past you on the freeway at near-sonic speeds anytime soon.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077, River gripes that they can put colonies on the moon, but they still can't make hangover cures.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • The Spoony Experiment: Spoony has this reaction when, during a cheesy 1950s sci-fi show Captain Z-Ro, the eponymous time-traveler shows a hovering platform to Leonardo da Vinci in order to inspire him. "Wait a minute, those existed in The '50s?! What a rip-off! I want one! I demand one right now!"
  • Invoked in CollegeHumor's "Back to the Future in Actual 2015".
  • The first half of this sketch by Kevin Smith features Dante and Randall from Clerks discussing this trope while sitting in traffic, with a Flying Car instead of a jetpack. Then it has Dante asking Randall what he'd do for a flying car...
  • Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation often complains "where is my jetpack?" in a game about the future.
    • In one of his reviews, when complaining about how many games have almost the same name, he speculates that it's an attempt at spiting people of the future for not giving the people of the present jetpacks.
  • Through-out the late-2010's into the early 2020's, video concepts from Russian-Turkish firm Dahir Insaat became popular with click-bait websites due to their flashy Awesome, but Impractical futurist ideas.

    Western Animation 
  • Johnny Bravo visited the future once, and it was revealed that multiple wars and plagues had prevented flying cars, but they were "working on it".
  • The Jetsons fell victim to this in too many ways to mention. Though technically we haven't made it to their time yet, since it takes place in 2062.
  • The Simpsons may have fallen victim to this with the 1995 episode "Lisa's Wedding" being set fifteen years in the future... in 2010. In fairness, the show's writers freely admit on DVD commentaries that they never expected the show to still be going several years into the 21st century. The episode also has a couple rather eerie jokes about a Rolling Stones reunion tour and a Jim Carrey film festival, both of which have become much more plausible since it aired.
  • Parodied in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law involving George Jetson. George declares that he's from the impossibly far-off year of 2002, which causes Harvey to glance at his calendar, which reads "May 2004".
  • Spoofed by Futurama, where all these things finally did come to pass, and some of them are even passé. In only the second episode, we learn that the moon is now a tourist trap of an amusement park. None of the other characters can understand why Fry is so excited about going there, or why he'd rather see the "boring" real moon instead of going on the rides.
    • Indeed, dinosaurs can be ridden in kiddie parks, and blowing up a planet is akin to garbage disposal. Oh, and Suicide Booths.
    • "In 2443, most videotapes were destroyed during the second coming of Jesus."note 
    • Played straight with "America's most popular suicide-booth since 2008". Then again, that was the year of the Credit Crunch...
  • Parodied in Family Guy where Stewie is transported into the future and sees the buildings: "Everything looks the same?" "Of course! It has only been thirty years!" Part of that is because he was expecting to have become the ruler of the world by this point, with his genius propelling the world into a new Golden Age (to be fair, he has made a number of amazing inventions, from time machines to interdimensional transportation devices). It's just that his future self has lost the drive to take over the world and is now living a solitary life of a typical office drone. This future does have time travel tourism, though.
  • American Dad! uses the same joke as Family Guy, showing the year 2045 that looks almost exactly like the present (save for a random pet robotic dog).
  • Parodied in The Fairly OddParents!, when Timmy finds a bunch of old comic-books set in a Zeerust vision of what is now the present. He decides that its "present" is better and wishes real-life was like this. This, like all of his wishes, backfires as it leads to the obligatory Robot War and takeover.
  • This is actually a major theme in The Venture Bros.. To quote co-creator Jackson Publick:
    "This show is actually all about failure. Even in the design, everything is supposed to be kinda the death of the space-age dream world. The death of the jet-age promises."
  • Parodied in an episode of Robot Chicken, with a scientist responding angrily to everyone that has been complaining about the lack of jetpacks. After a short rant, a series of test videos play, each ending in massive disasters.
    Scientist: Now will you shut up so we can go back to making your iPods smaller? (*iPod explodes* )
  • When Defenders of the Earth was made in the mid 1980s, the show's creators set the series a generation in the future. (None of the sixty-five episodes explicitly mention that the events depicted take place in the year 2015; a reference to it being nearly eighty years since the outbreak of World War II is as close as they get.) A generation on, the advanced technology seen in the series is conspicuous by its absence.
  • Pepper Ann: "The Finale" takes place in 2012. 2012's been and gone, and flying cars, teleportation and the holographic mail don't exist yet. Mark Hamill isn't President of the United States and Alex Trebek is dead (but he was alive in that year). However, Nicky's comment about the local ice cream shop closing, Milo's comment about the arcade closing, and the outrageous price of pizza are pretty accurate.


Video Example(s):


Jetpack Tests

A scientist explains why the world hasn't seen jetpacks yet with videos of failed tests.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / FailureMontage

Media sources: