Okay, let's clear this up. Although there was a popular rumour round about the time Back to the Future II was released that real hoverboards existed, it is actually false. A fugazi. Bollocks. There were never any real, working hoverboards made, or even invented. The practical difficulties in using a thin piece of wood/plastic to lift a real live person off the ground are just too great. After all, the person's weight would vary greatly, they could be anything from a small child, to a big-assed adult. But it was such a cool story, everyone - including me at the time - really really wanted to believe it. Throw in a likely sounding sinister government keeping it away from us ("yeah, the government does cover stuff up, this is just like them") it virtually writes itself. "Hey! They've made real hoverboards! But they're not allowed to sell them, cause they're too dangerous. I want one..." Shame, really, I would have loved to have one.

If you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, check out www.bttf.com/film_faq.htm - an excellent FAQ with lots of interesting stuff if you love these movies like I do. Apparently old Bobby Zemeckis, see, he was having a bit of a giggle, right, and made a joke about hoverboards being real, and it was all just a bit fun... the cheeky scamp...

The closest thing at the moment is the Airboard, an Australian invention which is basically a mini hovercraft/skateboard. If you really want one, check out the website - www.airboard.com.au. When you see the pictures, and see how they've solved the problem of getting people off the ground, it's fairly obvious that the technology to make a proper, small Back to the Future II-style hoverboard probably won't be around for a hundred years or so.

Update: Roninspoon says The new Back to the Future boxed set perpetuates this myth in a convincing manner by showing the film clip where Zemeckis states that "they've been around for years, but parents groups thought they were too dangerous." The clip is presented without disclaimer and he says it completely straight faced. So convincing was this tidbit that my GF, a Mechanical Engineer with a Masters degree believed it.

After several years of research and development, scientists have developed an operational Hoverboard. The unit is much bigger and operates much like a high performance hovercraft. Its actually more like a hovering surfboard than a skateboard, but the size is necessary in order to successfully carry the weight of a 225lb rider.
It hovers about 3 inches above the ground. The flexible skirt is used to help trap, moving air under the craft and drastically increases efficiency. There is a slight gap between the skirt and the surface being ridden over. The craft hovers best over smooth flat surfaces. It works well on virtually any type of surface.

The unit is propelled by a duct assembly, which directs thrust to the rear for propulsion. Steering is accomplished by 2 small rudders mounted inside the rear duct. The directional thrust is capable of pushing the Hoverboard forward at up to 30 mph. An electronic hand controller is linked to the Hoverboard by a small cable. By pushing buttons on the controller, the operator can make the board turn left and right, vary engine speed and stop the engine. In the event that the rider jumps off the board, the hand controller will simply unplug from the cable. This is a safety device, which automatically causes the engine to shut down, and the Hoverboard to stop. This prevents the Hoverboard from continuing off on its own.
The unit is made of fibreglass and welded polyethylene plastic for lightweight and durability. Skateboard grip tape is mounted on the top of the Hoverboard to prevent the rider from slipping while riding.

With thanks to gadgetmaster.com
Fifteen years on, there are not one, not two, but three kinds of "hoverboard" out there for consideration. One is a device popularly marketed as such in 2015/early 2016 which, critically, DOES NOT HOVER. It is instead a two-wheeled battery-powered standing scooter. Obviously, marketed as a hoverboard because "two-wheeled battery-powered standing scooter" sounds vaguely like something an elderly person would ride in the cafeteria line. But the key takeaway is that with this version of the hoverboard, there is no goddamn hovering going on. Try and take it out over a lake, and you'll sink (and probably be electrocuted).

Now, the other hoverboards which came out late in 2015, they're the real deal. One is a sort of bulky, boxy, fan-powered thing which can carry you triumphantly around for all of six minutes. The other, light years cooler to look at, is a maglev device which can carry you around all day -- provided that you spend all day in this one skate park built by Lexus, where a network of underground magnetic rails do the heavy lifting to keep a person-occupied hoverboard off the ground.

Not to pooh-pooh these innovations too much. After all, by today's standards, the first cars and airplanes and mobile phones were boxy and inefficient and a far cry from the sleek modern marvels (even the first horse was just a tiny thing). So good on science and technology to advancing us to what will surely be looked back upon by slackers flying every which way as the humble beginnings of a true future hoverboard revolution.



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