Variations and Inconsistencies with the
Temporal Display Unit in the
Back to the Future Trilogy


By: CJ Sidewall
http://www.oocities.com/what_the_flux



Did you ever notice that the temporal display unit used in Back to the Future (1985) is slightly different from the temporal display unit in Back to the Future II (1989) and Back to the Future III (1990)? Well I didn't until I watched the trilogy DVDs for the first time, and I'm a pretty hardcore Back to the Future fan too.

For those of you out there who also don't know, pull up a chair and bowl of popcorn and let me show you through the magic of "Free Time O'Vision".

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages.....introducing the first.....the best.....and probably the only.....website dedicated to the Back to the Future Temporal Display Unit!



1.0     Temporal Display Unit Overview

I always thought the temporal display unit was (and still is) one of the coolest features of the DeLorean. Below are two images taken of the complete temporal display unit, one taken from Back to the Future and other taken from Back to the Future II.

First off, terminology. I consider the unit in the four images shown below labelled Figure 1A-D to be the "temporal display unit", and an instance of the data displayed on the unit to be the "temporal display" (i.e. the current set of dates). With that said, I consider the "time circuits" (which the temporal display unit is sometimes referred to as) to be the a combination of the temporal display unit, the flux capacitor, and the necessary circuitry in between.

Secondly, I believe there were only four instances when we got to see a nice closeup of the entire temporal display unit as shown below. I don't consider this image a "nice closeup" because it's blurry. The shot doesn't come into focus until the "Last Time Departed" is clipped away.

Figure 1A: The temporal display in Back to the Future, when Doc is showing Marty how the time machine works at the Twin Pines Mall parking lot on October 26th, 1985. Figure 1B: The temporal display in Back to the Future II, when Doc, Marty, Jennifer and Einstein leave 2015 for the alternate 1985.

Figure 1C: The temporal display in Back to the Future II, when Doc and Marty leave Biff's Pleasure Paradise and the alternate 1985 for November 12th, 1955. Figure 1D: The temporal display in Back to the Future II, when Doc is leaving the Lyon Estates billboard preparing to meet Marty on the roof of Hill Valley High School.

Commentary:

Everything seems cool right?

2.0     The AM/PM Argument, the Display Labels, and the Metallic Surface

Figure 2A: The "Destination Time" as the camera pans across the display, prior to Marty's departure to November 5th, 1955 in Back to the Future, from the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall in 1985. Figure 2B: The "Destination Time" as the camera pans across the display, prior to Marty's departure to September 2nd, 1885 in Back to the Future III, from the drive-in movie theatre in 1955.

Commentary (AM/PM):

Notice that Figure 2A has:

  1. a red "AM" label;
  2. a corresponding "AM" LED light;
  3. a red "PM" label;
  4. a corresponding "PM" LED light.

On the other hand, Figure 2B only has a red "PM" label where the "AM" label should appear in Figure 2A (hence no "AM" label), as well as having the two LED lights.

If you take a look at Figure 2A and Figure 2B, both destinations are destined for a morning arrivals, yet the top LED in 'ON' in Figure 2A, whereas the bottom LED is 'ON' in Figure 2B.

In addition, if you take a look again at Figure 1A and Figure 1B above, focusing on the green "Present Time", you can see that both the top LEDs are 'ON', yet the present time of Figure 1A is in the AM and Figure 1B in the PM.

Commentary (Display Labels):

Look at where the black "Destination Time" label is placed relative to the LED segments in Figure 2A and Figure 2B.

In Figure 2A, the "T" in "Time" of "Destination Time" is directly below the 4th digit of the year (i.e. the last '5' in '1955').
In Figure 2B, the "T" in "Time" of "Destination Time" is directly below the AM/PM LED lights.

In Figure 2A, it takes roughly the letters "INATION TIM" of "Destination Time" to span the across the four year digits.
In Figure 2B, it takes roughly the letters "TINATION" of "Destination Time" to span the across the four year digits.

And naturally, this can be extended to the other labels and their relative size and placement to other LED segments.

Commentary (Metallic Surface):

Look at the surface of the metallic shell of the temporal display unit. Figure 2A appears to have a textured "bump-mapped" quality to the surface, while Figure 2B appears to have a smooth finish to the surface.



3.0     The Month Arguments


3.1     The October "OCT" Argument

Figure 3A: The October ("OCT") of the Month display in Back to the Future, when Doc sets up the Destination Time for Marty's trip back to 1985. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here. Figure 3B: The October ("OCT") of the Month display as the camera pans across the display in Back to the Future III. This is when the DeLorean is being pushed by the train, preparing for its final trip to 1985. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here.

Commentary:

Take a look at how the horizontal part of the "T" intersects the vertical part of the "T" in the two images. In Figure 3A, the vertical-"T" intersects the horizontal-"T" with a little arrowhead overlapping the horizontal-"T". In Figure 3B, there is no arrowhead overlap.

Figure 3C: The October ("OCT") of the Month display in Back to the Future, when Marty turns the time circuits on, while racing away in the DeLorean trying to escape the terrorists. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here. Figure 3D: The October ("OCT") of the Month display in Back to the Future II, when Doc, Marty, Jennifer and Einstein descend towards Hill Valley California, on Wednesday October 21st, 2015. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here.

Commentary:

Notice the positioning of the "OCT" in the two figures? In Figure 3C, the "OCT" seems to be bigger and fills the Month display up. The "O" of "OCT" is pressed up against the left edge of the display segment with very little spacing. In Figure 3D, the "OCT" seems smaller and centered in the display segment, with large gap between the left edge and the "O" of "OCT". Also notice the spacing between the "C" and the "T" in Figure 3C is bigger than the spacing between the "O" and the "C". In Figure 3D, the letters seem evenly spaced.


3.2     The November "NOV" Argument

Figure 4A: The November ("NOV") of the Month display in Back to the Future when Marty turns the time circuits on, while racing away in the DeLorean trying to escape the terrorists. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here. Figure 4B: The November ("NOV") of the Month display in Back to the Future II when Doc and Marty leave Biff's Pleasure Paradise and the alternate 1985 for November 12th, 1955. Take a look at the complete temporal display image here.

Commentary:

Can you see it? The two "NOV" look very different! Look at the diagonal line of the "N" and the right half of the "V".

In Figure 4A, the diagonal line of the "N" extends from the top-left-corner to the bottom-right-corner.
In Figure 4B, the diagonal line of the "N" extends from the top-left-corner to the middle-right only.

In Figure 4A, the right half of the "V" is composed of two diagonal line segments extending from the bottom-left-corner to the top-right-corner.
In Figure 4B, the right half of the "V" is also composed of two-segments, but one is diagonal and one is vertical. The diagonal segment starts from the from the bottom-left-corner to the middle-right, and the vertical segment continues from the middle-right to the top-right-corner.



4.0     The Worn Display Labels

Figure 5A: The temporal display in Back to the Future II, when Doc, Marty, Jennifer and Einstein descend towards Hill Valley California, on Wednesday October 21st, 2015. Figure 5B: The temporal display in Back to the Future II, when Doc, Marty, Jennifer and Einstein leave 2015 for the alternate 1985, which happens about 3 hours later.

Commentary:

In Figure 5A, notice how the some of text in the red and black display segment labels are wearing, while some letters have actually worn off? In particular the "Year" and "PM" of the Destination Time. However, in Figure 5B and subsequent images of the temporal display unit, these labels are "fine" again. In addition, the time difference between the two events is only 3 hours! (If you don't count the few hours old Biff "borrowed" the DeLorean to go back to 1955)



5.0     Inconsistencies with Marty and the Temporal Display Unit

5.1     In Back to the Future (in 1955)

Figure 6A: The "Last Time Departed" in Back to the Future when Doc points out the time Marty left 1985. Figure 6B: The "Destination Time" in Back to the Future, moments after Figure 6A when Doc sets up the destination time so that Marty arrives back in 1985 at the exact same time he left.

Figure 6C: The temporal display in Back to the Future set prior to Marty realizing is in a time machine and that he can go back 10 minutes earlier to warn Doc that he gets shot. Figure 6D: The temporal display in Back to the Future that Marty sets it to, after Figure 6C.

Commentary:

Note the present time in Figure 6B as Doc sets up the time circuits for Marty's trip back to 1985, 09:56PM. Now take a look at the present time in Figure 6C and Figure 6D when Marty changes the destination time 10 minutes earlier, also 09:56PM. You get the picture. =)


5.2     In Back to the Future (in 1985)

Figure 7A: The temporal display at the beginning of Back to the Future when Marty first hops into the DeLorean trying to get away from the terrorists. Figure 7B: The temporal display at the end of Back to the Future right after Marty returns to 1985 from 1955 and the DeLorean won't start. (Note: The brightness and contrast of this image was modified for better visibility).

Commentary:

In Figure 7B, when Marty returns to October 26th, 1985, 01:24AM, his "Last Time Departed" should read "NOV 12 1955 10:04 PM" yet it reads "OCT 26 1985 01:20AM". Coincidentally, this is the same time in Figure 7A, which is the first time he gets into the DeLorean trying to flee the terrorists. In this case, the "Last Time Departed" is correct, which occurred when Einstein jumped one minute into the future. (See Figure 1A).

If we superimpose Figure 7A and Figure 7B, we obtain the composite image Figure 7C below. Hmmm...that looks like the exact same shot.

Figure 7C: The composition of Figure 7A and Figure 7B superimposed on each other.

On a side note, notice that in Figure 7A, the temporal display unit (and the time circuits too by assumption) are already on when Marty hops into the DeLorean.
OR ARE THEY?!?! Click here to find out.

5.3     In Back to the Future III

Figure 8A: The temporal display at the beginning of Back to the Future III when Marty is preparing to go back to 1885 to get Doc. (Note: The brightness and contrast of this image was modified for better visibility). Figure 8B: The temporal display at the end of Back to the Future III when the DeLorean is on the tracks, and Doc tells Marty to key in the destination time October 27th, 1985, 10:00AM.

Commentary:

Can you see what's wrong with Figure 8A?


This is heavy! Don't know what else to say about these images.



6.0     Inconsistencies with Doc and the Temporal Display Unit

Figure 9A: Doc turning the time circuits on in Back to the Future II, leaving the Lyon Estates billboard preparing to meet Marty on the roof of Hill Valley High School. (Note: The brightness and contrast of this image was modified for better visibility). Figure 9B: A close up of the temporal display unit right after Figure 9A takes place. This is what the temporal display should read in Figure 9A.

Commentary:

Great Scott! Can you see what's wrong with Figure 9A?!?!


Notes on Figure 1C, when Doc and Marty leave Biff's Pleasure Paradise for November 12th, 1955. If you rewatch that sequence, you'll notice the following errors:

  1. "NOV 12 1955" displays across the "Destination Time" of the temporal display, as can be seen here.
  2. Then you can hear Doc typing into the input keypad.
  3. The time circuits screw up to display "JAN 01 1885", Doc hits it, and it corrects back to "NOV 12 1955".
  4. Afterwards, Doc turns the time circuits on and Marty argues we can go back now etc.



7.0     Additional Temporal Display Unit Pics

Figure 10A: "Say you want to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence..." Figure 10B: "...Or witness the birth of Christ."

Figure 10C: An intermediate shot of the temporal display as the "Destination Time" fluctuates between "NOV 12 1955" and "JAN 01 1885" in Back to the Future II. (See Figure 1D for reference). Figure 10D: Another intermediate shot of the temporal display as the "Destination Time" fluctuates between "NOV 12 1955" and "JAN 01 1885" in Back to the Future II. (See Figure 1D for reference).

Figure 10E: The "Destination Time" at the beginning of Back to the Future III. Figure 10F: The "Destination Time" at the end of Back to the Future III.

Figure 10G: The last breath of the Temporal Display Unit and the Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future III.




Additional Unique Back to the Future Links




Wow! Wasn't that fun and interesting? Hey, you learn something new everyday, no one said it had to be useful. I hope you enjoyed the site. If there are any errors or notable temporal display unit anomolies I am missing, please e-mail me at: what_the_flux@yahoo.com


Created by CJ Sidewall. December 2002.

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