In celebration of Back to the Future Day we've done a little time travelling of our own and delved into the DK archives where we came upon a title from 1996 called Multi-media The Complete User-Friendly Guide. The best thing about this book? The final chapter takes a good guess at what the future of technology will hold. It's time to travel back to 1996 and find out how right (or indeed wrong) our predictions were...
'Each member of the family has a personalised newspaper (it is still called this, although most people no longer print it out). The newspaper is multimedia - a mix of text, still images, video and sound. It was created by an automatic "intelligent searcher" - a program that looks through hundreds of electronic newspapers, assembling what it believes to be the most suitable collection of stories for each member of the family'
8/10 for accuracy: Smart devices allow us to access information anytime, anywhere and there are a number of apps that you can use to create a personalised news feed. Plus, you can still enjoy a nice bowl of Country Crisp for breakfast.
'PDAs can now combine the functions of a personal organiser, computer, internet terminal, and mobile telephone all in one package. PDAs use a miniature keyboard or some form of data entry tablet, often handwriting recognition. As PDAs get smaller and more sophisticated they will be able to provide us with information wherever we go, and we will be able to access that information on display services as compact and diverse as a wristwatch.'
8/10 for accuracy: Today the term PDA is better known as being the initialism for Public Display of Affection, however, the 1996 PDA was perhaps the first idea how of how a smartphone might work. When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 the PDA keyboard became a thing of the past, the iPhone was a game changer and heralded a new era of communications.
'In her office, Anna, the mother of the family, is involved in a virtual conference with her colleagues. She wears a pair of virtual reality glasses, connected by infrared link to her computer. Through her headset she sees a virtual meeting with several people sitting around a table. Disembodied hands pass around documents, which are then sorted on her computer.'
6/10 for accuracy: Virtual reality meetings haven't really caught on (perhaps it was the huge keyboard that put us off) but with Skype, Google Hangouts and other video conference technology we're able to connect on a more personal level, whilst avoiding wearing headsets.
'In the living room Nick, the father of the family, is watching an interactive film whilst doing the shopping. He does this on a very large screen that hangs like a painting on the wall.'
9/10 for accuracy: The fashion is a little off and there's no mention of Netflix, other than that we were spot on!
'In his bedroom 12-year-old Ben is wearing virtual reality gear. In his virtual world he is a medieval knight, jousting (the stick is his lance). He is taking part in a global tournament, but since there are a million entrants his chances of winning are remote.'
7/10 for accuracy: Today Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft enable large numbers of people to come together and play a game simultaniously in the same instance. With the coming of technology hardware such Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus, the fully immersive virtual reality experience, although not common place, is taking off faster than ever before.
In 1996 the world was already becoming smaller and more connected. We couldn't have predicted that a guy called Mark Zuckerberg would create something called 'Facebook', we didn't know how a smartphone would look, but we knew that times were changing and with this we asked ourselves questions about how society might change as a result. Questions that are still relevant today.
'...social changes implicit in this new technology will be far-reaching. Governments, businesses, and the general public will be faced with many more choices - and with some perplexing questions.'