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 present day 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 got a lot of cool stuff, note but not most of the cool stuff we were promised.
The trope is sometimes spoofed by characters brought from the past into the future, only to be disappointed by the lack of "sci-fi" things present. "This is the future? Where are the food cubes? Where are all the phaser guns?" "My Flying Car?!"
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.
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 are still far from being as powerful as sci-fi authors promised they'd be certainly isn't helping their case.
This trope is named for the punch-line to Leo's rant in an episode of The West Wing on how we did not get the future we were promised.
Actually inherent to Space Operas; though all Real Life space development is based on unmanned probes, all FTL Starships must have people on them because it's hard to tell entertaining stories about unmanned probes.
In more recent works, it seems to be fashionable to set the story really far in the future (as in, centuries or more), so no one will still be alive to see how inaccurate it is.
Contrast with: It's a Small Net After All, (in the aforementioned rant, Leo dismisses the Internet as "A more efficient delivery system for pornography,fwatches") Tech Marches On. Compare with Zeerust and Failed Future Forecast.
- In a TV ad for IBM, Avery Brooks says, "It's the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars!" Of course, he points out that we don't need flying cars; we have something better: The internet!
- A Coke Zero commercial muses about this very thing, pointing out, "It's 2010. Weren't we supposed to have Time Travel by now?" (While his roommate is constantly correcting various embarassing situations in his past.)
- Invoked and subverted by a Samsung commercial showing a number of classic works that use communicator watches,Examples followed by their own product, which finally accomplishes the same task in real life.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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!"
- 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!
- When Jamie is transported 80 years into the future:
- 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.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
Hobbes: A new decade is coming up.
- Calvin gives one of these rants in one strip:
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.
- In the seventh part of Back to the Doctor, The Doctor assumes this is a typical reaction when he and Marty arrive in a 20 Minutes into the Future version of 2015. Except Marty reveals that he did visit a 2015 full of holograms, robots, and flying cars. The Doctor handwaves it with his Timey-Wimey Ball.
- Harmony Theory: Rainbow actually asks why they don't have jetpacks 1000 years after the setting of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Star Fall is actually a bit disappointed at how unimpressed Rainbow seems with the future. Justified since the Equestria of 1000 years hence is pretty much a dunghole in comparison to Rainbow's Equestria, what with the Götterdämmerung draining the magic from the world and causing extinction events amongst sapients and generally reducing the power level of all magical races (to the point Rainbow Dash risks accidentally killing ponies because she's that much stronger, tougher and faster than they are), the shattering of pony civilization into two warring empires, the imminent return of the local Mad God, the psychopath running around chasing the Elements of Harmony... let's face it: future Equestria sucks.
- Shinji And Warhammer 40 K: In one of the interlude chapters a character jokes that since AT Fields make antigravity possible... "It is 2015 already. Where's my hoverboard, punk? Where is it?!" To answer his question, hover"boards" will eventually happen (sort of) thanks to the 40k canon.
- Rocketship Voyager is Star Trek: Voyager written In the Style of... a 1954 sci-fi pulp set in the far future of the year 2020 where humanity has flying cars, megacities, colonies on Venus and Mars, and torchships powered by Anti Matter (but not Faster-Than-Light Travel until they encounter interstellar aliens).
"They work as mercenaries for the Briori, the species that controls passage through the black star portals," said Nee'Lix, discussing the impossible as casually as a Terran would mention a flying car.
- Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space is an Affectionate Parody of this trope, including a scene where the protagonists have to use an actual Jet Pack only to be given a prerecorded safety warning of why it's Awesome, but Impractical.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spoofed where 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 here in 1955, it's a little hard to come by!")
- 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).
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 mankind, 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).
- 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.
- The Cold Open to "The Dealership" had them discussing the frustrating absence of the long-promised Flying Car.
- 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 Mitchell and Webb 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 2000's.
- seaQuest DSV, the first season of which is set in 2018, is on the verge of being this.
- 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 mankind 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:
- 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.
- The band We Were Promised Jetpacks seem to allude to this in their name.
- 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.
- Mortal Kombat 11, 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:
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: come 2009 and we're still not communicating via nanomachines.
- It's 2014, same year of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and still no signs of those nanomachines. Or Gekkos, thankfully.
- Now it's 2018, the same year as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. In summary, we can barely automate cars let alone WMD-toting Humongous Mecha, full-body cyborgs and sentient AI don't exist, high-frequency vibroblades haven't replaced guns, and still no nanomachines, son.
- 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. Check back in 2022 to see whether Japanese becomes the favored language of science, and whether or not 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 Time Splitters 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.
- Used hilariously in Andrew Kepples' Goodbye Cruel World: A character triggers the Y2K virus by activating an old VCR, which causes the characters' immediate surroundings to turn into the setting of The Jetsons.
- Referenced in this Dork Tower strip. And again, in this one.
- Skin Horse has the Department of Jetpack Suppression.
- Parodied in Penny and Aggie in 2020 Pennies, where one of the allegedly possible Pennies is using a jetpack to commute, even though it starts a fire when she takes off.
- Three Panel Soul makes a convincing argument (similar to the xkcd page quote) that Truth in Television actually subverts this trope.
- The Pain knows it, "We're Living in the Future!"
- This Arthur, King of Time and Space strip.
- Nodwick: They once met a time traveler from five centuries ago expecting at least some crystal spires, and Nodwick gives him a short synopsis on current state of affairs. He is not amused.
- In Irregular Webcomic!, the 80's Adam and Jamie want to use their time machine to test the myth that there will be flying cars by 2000. Since this may not be the case, they decide to go to 2009 "where they're bound to have flying cars" and ask people for how long they have existed. And of course, this page is mentioned in The Rant.
- Bug had it justifiably subverted. And the next pass, where Reality Ensues.
- In a strip made in 2000, Conrad from Capt'n Crazy complained about this.
- When the Elf King in 8-Bit Theater wakes from his illness, the first thing he wants to know is what kind of advancements has Elfland made during his slumber. When he learns that nothing's changed, he demands, "What the hell have our scientists been doing?"
- Much later on, Red Mage questions Thief on why he thinks Elves are so great, when their technology is at the same level as humans, even though they've had a 9000 year head start. Thief's response is a rather awkward and unconvincing, "That's how we like it."
- Amazing Super Powers chose hover cars, fancy-schmancy ray guns and cities on the moon (see also comment, Alt Text and hidden comic).
- In Harbourmaster, part of Richard Stevenson's skepticism about being a Fish out of Temporal Water is based on a belief that "[t]he future is supposed to be rocket ships and robots, not some primitive fishing village."
- Bob Chipman: Moviebob devoted an entire Big Picture episode to this subject.
- Cracked has numerous articles making this demand, such as 8 Movie Futures Already Proven Wrong.
- This seems to be a very popular trope for Cracked.com, as we see them playing it straight, subverting it, playing with it some more and informing us that we already have our Zero-Gravity Flight, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Matter Replicators (sorta), Universal Translators, Augmented Reality Goggles, Holograms, Hunter-Killer drones, Real-Time Tracking AI, Minority Report-Style OS, Lightsabers (again, kinda), Flying Laser Cannons, Railguns, Battle Droids, Weaponized Space Satellites, Exploding Flying Saucers, Walking DNA Robots, Accelerated Evolution, Bacterial Computers, DNA Neural Networks, Self-Healing Photonic Wires, Anti-Cancer Programmable Drugbots, Targeting Artificial Lightning, Human Laser Systems, and Laser Mind-Control.
- In one episode of the Cracked podcast - that begins by discussing addiction - James Wong expresses the opinion that a huge untapped future technology that is waiting to be discovered is some kind of Instant Expert via technology, and that there's probably millions of people around the world with untapped skills but they either cannot afford college, are not academically minded or are too old and tied down with commitments.
- Buy your "I Still Want My Flying Car!" T-shirt at Retropolis.
- John Titor, a user who posted on various message boards in the early 2000s, claimed to be a time-traveller from 2035 and gave a pretty detailed outline of what the coming decades have to offer. While most of it was horrible and frightening, he also mentioned some spectacular scientific breakthroughs, all culminating in the invention of reliable and ever-improving time machines (made by General Electric no less). Naturally, none of the technological wonders Titor promised have arrived when he said they would, but he did mention that we may be living in an Alternate Timeline created by his presence, so things won't play out the same way they did in his world.
- The SCP Foundation parodies this with SCP-1122, a Zeerust styled house. Everytime the family living in it views a piece of modern technology, a piece of the house's tech gets replaced with it (i.e. Food Pills replaced by a microwave). This has driven the family into depression and introversion, lamenting that "things should be better".
- The meme "I Bet There Will Be Flying Cars in the Future", taking the rough form:
1980: "I bet there will be flying cars in the future"
2017: [image of some ridiculous/bizarre bit of modern culture]
- 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.
- 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. It takes place in 2062 though so certain stuff is still technically possible.
- 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...
- And, believe it or not, they weren't far off, considering 2008 did actually see the invention of this.
- 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.
- There exist (at varying degrees of public availability and feasibility) jet packs and other personal flying technology, bipedal robots, robot pets, flying cars, drone explorations on other planets, laser weapons, ranged stun weapons that end in "azer", and bionic limbs. Whether or not they can be produced cheaply enough for the average buyer, is another story.
- One could feasibly have a jetpack now for about two-hundred thousand US dollars.
- Now you can own your own jetpack. It costs $90,000, but it flies well enough.
- Soon they'll be available mass-produced for $30,000 apiece, and can fly up to 50 kilometers in half an hour with a tankful, and can rise up to two kilometers. They're still Awesome, but Impractical for the most of us, though. Mind you, all that is off the point. It's not jetpacks per se that we want, nor even the thrill of flight; it's technological solutions to problems that turn the work-a-day world into Tomorrowland. The whole point of jetpacks is that no one ever has to worry about traffic jams or parking the car again, both of which would become an issue if and when jetpacks become widely available.
- The most common example after personal Jet Packs is the Flying Car, which is completely impractical for reasons gone into at that page (notably, most flight mechanisms we know about have very strict restrictions on their control, making it impractical to train most people to fly using them).
- Even beyond that issue - anybody who has had to drive frequently on expressways and other high-volume traffic areas, would question the wisdom of subjecting drivers that can barely handle navigating traffic in two dimensions,to a third. Not to mention the dangers of having your car break down.
- This article from 1956 sets up an inversion.
- Ironically, we kinda took a backwards approach to this - compared to what was predicted. The idea of a video phone goes back just as far, and in fact prototypes of such a device/service have popped up numerous times - first by attempting to use normal phone lines, and then later by using the Internet with webcams, but it never really caught on, until after we already had those personal portable phones with a camera and large color screen.
- Also we have pocket-size portable phone/computer combos (called in most pulp sci-fi works "Datapads"), tons of information sent out and received via radio or television waves, a global communication network designed to point out repeating elements of said radio and television waves, a fast computing machine in every household (hardly any Sci Fi writers had any idea how computer technology would skyrocket), travel at the speed of sound or fasternote , passenger cars running on oil or electricity or other products, and microwave ovens (the first commercial model was built in 1947) that heat food in a matter of seconds.
- Amusingly enough, this was during a period of time when everybody thought videophones would be a future part of daily life. While the technology is certainly there, they seemed to forget that people are vain, and might not want anybody to see them at certain times they would normally be talking on the phone. In addition there's always this slightly odd result of the other person not looking you in the eye - because it's still impossible to put the camera in the same location as the screen. Nowadays webcams and such are pretty much a part of daily life.
- Videophones are arguably a subversion. Long considered an icon of "the future", at first were only popular in Japan and South Korea, the only two countries in the world where the video call function of a cellphone is heavily used, in addition to being the two countries in the world with sufficiently superb data transmission infrastructure to support regular videophone use. The rise of teleconferencing software such as Skype and Face Time that could be installed on standard laptop computers and smartphones made video calls popular worldwide. The 2019-20 COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many people to work from their homes, has only accelerated the growth of the videophone market.
- These 1900's predictions were scarily accurate. See "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years".
- They are transcribed here if you don't want to strain your eyes reading the magazine scan. Also, the entire paleo-future site where that picture is hosted is filled with examples of technologies that never came to be; in addition to the predictions already mentioned, both sets of post cards and this article are striking.
- This shirt sums up the trope pretty poignantly.
- Someday in the future we'll have supersonic jets and rockets to the moon again.
- Thank God we are still able to enjoy food pills and how we managed to get the idea of food pills.
- Tomorrowland at Disneyland, when it opened in 1955, was themed as a prediction of life in the far-off year of 1986. Just a few short years later however it was clear that 1986 was going to be nothing like people in the 1950s were predicting, leading to the land's massive 1967 overhaul in which it was re-themed to showcasing breakthroughs that could benefit the future, but were very much available at the time.
- Fusion power. Maybe in about 50 or so years. Maybe not at all. In 1979, the fusion research group at Princeton were reasonably sure that commercial fusion power was 30 years away. Thirty years later, commercial fusion power is now 50 years away. The future is actively receding. Of course, considering how powerful the anti-nuclear movement and the oil industry both are, one has to wonder if anybody has even been researching it at all since then.
- As alluded to above, one area of technology that has consistently inverted this trope is that of computing. Popular books on computing in the late '80s and early '90s would often include a vision of the "computer of the future" that we'd all be using in 2020, that would be more powerful than a contemporary supercomputer, and as well as the already familiar tasks of office functions, games and internet access would serve as a television, radio, video telephone, media player and a portal for services such as shopping, banking and government administration. At the time, such predictions were considered to be on the optimistic side. This entry was typed on the computer of 2020, in 2010. And unlike the "computer of 2020," it's a laptop. Even more impressive is that all of these things could be done on a computer in the late 90's (although admittedly not as well).
There's even a law for this: Moore's Law, which states that the processing capacity of computers doubles every eighteen months (one and a half years). It relies chiefly on technical innovations in different fields coming together - originally, Moore based it on transistor counts for a computer of a given size, but the law was modified to account for the improved transistors used in newer computers, making them faster, less expensive and more compact. The law has held firm since the 1960s. They had a vision of the future that was considered extremely optimistic in 30 years and was met within the decade.
The reason it's been consistent for decades is because it was originally popularized by the industry in making "double capacity every eighteen months" a standard production goal; it became a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Moore originally observed this development to occur every two years. On the other hand, while computers can do a lot of neat things it seems we're not much closer to a true Artificial Intelligence than we've ever been.
It might have taken as long as predicted if the personal computer's entertainment potential hadn't become so popular. Even as late as the early nineties, PC games were still inferior to their gaming system counterparts, and sound cards were optional purchases. It could be said that the interest in multi-media, first MP3s and then video, as well as the interest in better-looking games pushed the PC industry into its current performance arms race, as well as the thirst for faster and faster Internet speeds.
- In 1958, Louisville, Kentucky radio station WAKY-AM sponsored an essay contest. Winners were promised an all-expenses-paid trip to the moon, with a pay-off date in 1987. As the radio station changed ownership in the intervening 29 years, those who attempted to claim their prize weren't able to press a civil suit against it for not fulfilling this promise.
- In the photo anthology, "Genesis: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins And Beyond", written in 1984, Gabriel is asked about where music was heading. He mentions a whole new kind of "emotive technology" featuring a "big library of sound" and that you will be able to "treat things as sounds" and "be able to forget about where they came from and how you got them". He discusses how every home will have a computer and that such a dream instrument will be "an attachment that will also be as common in every home as a piano". He also predicts how musicians will one day "bring a studio into (their) bedroom and (they'll) get (their) tapes released on vinyl...the week after (they've) finished it". Essentially, he predicted the rise of MIDI, digital Portastudios, affordable digital workstations and independent distribution of music, though he still believed tapes and vinyl would remain the norm in music media.
- Though in the case of tape, magnetic tape is still the preferred method for long term storage of media and data. As for vinyl, it is regaining popularity among both the industry and listeners due to it being more difficult to pirate as well as being able to escape the worst effects of the Loudness War.
- Here's one video that shows we may be closer to the future than people think. Not too bad.
- Cracked's 5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home. The jetpack is on the list. I Want My Jetpack, indeed. It shows you where to find plans for Tesla coils, laser guns railguns, Powered Armor, and yes, jetpacks. Slap it all together and you have an Iron Man suit DIY project.
- Incidentally, TVs that could tune into six channels (or indeed, nine) simultaneously does exist in the early 2000s, courtesy of Sharp Electronics. It turned out to be as impractical as one would think, and even more useless given the TV only has two tuners to save costs- how it worked was the first panel of the bunch would be run by the main tuner with sound, while the remaining 5 panels would be picture-only and powered by the auxiliary tuner, who would flip channels and update the respective panes every 5 seconds while the other panels except the first primary pane froze. You could probably imagine how well that worked.
- The latest series of DVRs from TiVo possess 6 tuners, fully functional as they can record up to 6 shows at a time, while you watch something already recorded. Or stream something else live over the internet via netflix/hulu etc.
- Some digital cable and satellite providers now offer "videowall mode" on their set top boxes, facilitating the ability to watch multiple channels simultaneously. Unfortunately, it's only practical for quickly surfing through what's available, since you only get sound on one channel and the other channel will likely lack subtitles or closed captioning. Watching it for prolonged periods of time isn't feasible. Besides, who would want to listen to the veritable cacophony of two overlapped soundstreams, not to mention six?
- Sherlock Holmes, for one. And that's pretty much it, unless you also want to train your perception to superhuman levels.
- Sci-fi writer John C. Wright has pointedly asked, in essence, "How is a private helicopter not a flying limousine, exactly?"note
- Generally speaking, as it goes with most specialized technology, the demand, or the desire to create demand, would result in making the controls of such an aircraft simpler and more convenient. We've seen this same progression in everything from computers, to even cars - after all, automatic transmissions, traction control, and even all-wheel drive all serve to make driving require less skill to do, and do safely. Rather, the most significant issues with the idea, revolve around the infrastructure that would be required to manage traffic in three dimensions, and how to make such a vehicle safe, if it should break down, or run out of fuel. With normal cars, you can at least drive them off onto the shoulder, or at least push it there. If your flying car breaks down, several hundred feet in the air, not only are you going to have a spectacularly bad day, but so will everybody beneath you.
- In a sense, and to summarize previous entries, we got our jetpacks, it just wasn't the ones we expected. Sci-fi writers of the past focused on the wrong innovations, some of which were feasible but impractical (jetpacks), and others just too costly (colonies on the Moon), while underestimating the development of much more practical and profitable technologies like computers and the Internet. Hence the paradox that we have less advanced space travel than in 20th century sci-fi works but much better and more ubiquitous computing technology. We should also not forget that we are comparing the early 21st century with sci-fi predictions of the mid or second half of the 20th century. That's not such a long time. Now, compare the world of the early 20th century with that of today... Those are two completely different worlds from a technological, scientific, social and geopolitical point of view. Perhaps the world of the late 21st or early 22nd century will be just as alien and futuristic to us who still remember the 1970 and its sci-fi as today's world would be for people of 1910.
- Some people have given an alternate explanation (in addition to all the above) for this trope. Some claim that a lot of this trope comes from the fear of new media, science and technology advancing too far, or too fast for people's liking, moralism, capitalism (as in fear of anything undermining it), bureaucracy, and other socio-political issues. Who? We don't know!
- You can't go to a major tech website without someone screaming about cloud computing and that the days of the PC are numbered. Amazingly enough, most of us are not on cloud computers yet. Somehow no one bothered to tell these guys that most folks might actually prefer to have all their sensitive information on drives they control rather than some company on the Internet. There's also the fact that if the Internet or company servers are down, the user is screwed, and that low hardware costs make owning a PC less of a problem than at any other time in history. Basically some of the predictions have been more about trying to push opinions than what people actually want.
- Same thing happened with "thin clients" back in the late 90's/early 00's. The idea was that with connection speeds exponentially increasing, a number of pundits were saying that work would be offloaded to central servers, and the output sent to various users with "thin clients" - computers that had just enough hardware to display, process keystrokes and input, and connect to the internet. If you're thinking that this sounds like mainframes and dumb terminals...that's because that's what it was, minus the sexy lingo that the pundits were pushing. Of course, processor speeds kept increasing, and the problems with thin client computing are similar to the problems with cloud computing, so it never really caught on.
- At least at the public and personal level. At the corporate and government level, it is catching on, largely because dumb terminals are cheap and if the network is down, work isn't being done anyway.
- Cloud computing basically means "rent it forever" - there are business tax advantages for doing this, but people prefer to own things in their personal lives.
- We at least have Data Pads and Communicators. We combined the two into Smartphones. And some people like to compare their phones to Star Trek's Tricorder.
- Such comparisons started as early as the 90's when people started noticing that the 3 1/2" Floppy was about the same size as the data cartridges used in TOS, and clamshell flip phones becoming the size of TOS communicators, before even getting thinner. Today, we've met or surpassed the vast majority of electronic/computer based devices and systems from TNG. In fact, one could fairly easily make a perfect reproduction of the bridge, using a flat screen TV as the viewscreen, and using actual touchscreen displays in the place of the painted plexiglass they used in the show for the control panels. You could even make use of an Alexa or Echo for voice commands. Sadly, giving either the voice of Majel Barrett, isn't quite possible yet.
- Video game company Wisdom Tree, a Christian-based company that had a habit of releasing unlicensed games for home consoles, broke their usual habit of making video games and ported copies of both the King James and NIV Bibles to the original Gameboy in the early 1990s, each sold on a standard cartridge. Each was a collection of text with a basic browser and a word search function. They effectively predated the popularity of e-book readers by more than a decade. Proof that this actually existed.