As you may or may not have picked up on, today has been christened Back To The Future Day. The reason being that in the second episode of the Hollywood franchise, Marty McFly and The Doc set the clock on the DeLorean time machine to 21st October 2015, flinging themselves 30 years into the future.
Once the pair arrived, they discovered plenty had changed. Cars flew, hoverboards had replaced skateboards, and pizzas could be ‘hydrated’, turning them from tiny morsels into feasts fit to feed the entire family. Conversely, though, plenty had also stayed the same; the Tannen family, for example remained a nasty lot, and it was still possible for people to end up covered in manure following traffic accidents.
This morning the press was full of references to the world finally arriving in what was, until yesterday and in the eyes of many Michael J Fox fans, the future. The Guardian even has an online news stream keeping people updated as to the best things happening on this momentous occasion. We’ve decided to do things differently, though.
So, rather than listing all the stuff that movie got wrong about our present era, or the few predictions that proved accurate, our team has opted to look back to the past, and come up with the following list of five things marketing and PR professionals were rather excited about circa 1985. Best buckle up then, because where we’re going there are definitely loads of roads, and the law dictates you need to wear a seatbelt…
1. The Fuji ES-1
‘The what now?’ we hear you ask. Contrary to popular belief, digital photography has actually been around longer than the last 20 years or so. In fact, Fuji’s pioneering model, the ES-1, was offering photographers the chance to save their pictures directly onto floppy disk in 1985, something that was unheard of before its launch. For those unaware of what a floppy disk was, click here.
2. The Macintosh
OK, OK, you’ve got us. Apple’s first flagship machine was actually unveiled and put on sale in 1984- hence the old advert using the phrase ‘1984 won’t be like 1984’. Nevertheless, 12 months on it had made a huge impact, and was starting to be viewed as a revolution in the eyes of many creatives. It also looked cool, and we all know how important image is in the media.
On March 15th, 1985, the world’s very first commercially registered domain name went live. That might sound like the most boring sentence we’ve ever written on the Smoking Gun blog, and maybe it is. Still, the computer systems firm in Massachusetts responsible for making the move (symbolics.com) will have had forward thinkers across the planet musing over where this brave new world was going to take us. Which is right here, right now.
4. First mobile phone calls (UK)
A little late to the party, in Japan, for example, the first mobile network launched in 1979 (several years ahead of the predictions made by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1962 publication, Profiles of the Future). Nevertheless, on 1st January 1985, Britain finally caught up. Weirdly, it was comedian Ernie Wise who ‘officially’ dialled first, but there are records of another call, made earlier that day, to Sir Ernest Harrison, then chairman of Racal Vodafone, from his son. The conversation apparently went: “Hi, it’s Mike. Happy New Year, this is the first ever call on a UK mobile network.” Nice.
5. TV advertising
By 1985 TV adverts were nothing new. They weren’t even new in 1955. Nevertheless, the mid-80s was something of a golden age for television commercials, particularly in Britain, where a brand new channel had come into its own after first launching one year before (Channel 4, obvs). Meanwhile, as Peter York writes in The Independent’s media section here, Britains admen had now become the most respected and ambitious in the world, refocusing on ever-more sophisticated concepts and products. Here’s a lovely montage some YouTuber has put together, whether you think it proves or contradicts that point is irrelevant; just enjoy the trip down memory lane.