Throughout history man has been making predictions of the future. With
the advent of technology, the predictions moved away from religious
topics to scientific and techological. Unfortunately for the speakers,
many of these failed predictions have been recorded for all future
generations to laugh at. Here is a selection of the 30 best.
Predictions 1 – 10
1. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer
in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital
Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers,
arguing against the PC in 1977.
2. “We will never make a 32 bit operating system.” — Bill Gates
3. “Lee DeForest has said in many newspapers and
over his signature that it would be possible to transmit the human
voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and
deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public … has been
persuaded to purchase stock in his company …” — a U.S. District
Attorney, prosecuting American inventor Lee DeForest for selling stock
fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company in 1913.
4. “There is
practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to
provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service
inside the United States.” — T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the
first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965).
5. “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and
project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where
the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive,
and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne.
I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur
regardless of all future advances.” — Lee DeForest, American radio
pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1926
6. “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.
7. “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” – Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later.
8. “Heavier-than-air flying machines are
impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist,
president of the British Royal Society, 1895.
9. “There will never be a bigger plane built.” — A
Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane
that holds ten people
10. “Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably
be a reality in 10 years.” -– Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner
company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.
Predictions 11 – 20
11. “This is the biggest fool thing we have ever
done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in
explosives.” — Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy during World War II, advising President Truman on the atomic bomb, 1945. Leahy admitted the error five years later in his memoirs
12. “The energy produced by the breaking down of
the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of
power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.” — Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time.
13. “There is not the slightest indication that
nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom
would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932
14. “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s
canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on
the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio
15. “The horse is here to stay but the automobile
is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings
Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the
Ford Motor Co., 1903
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17. “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to
be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is
inherently of no value to us.” — A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or
18. “The world potential market for copying
machines is 5000 at most.” — IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox,
saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify
19. “I must confess that my imagination refuses to
see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and
floundering at sea.” — HG Wells, British novelist, in 1901.
20. “X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.
Predictions 21 – 30
21. “The idea that cavalry will be replaced by
these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.” —
Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration,
22. “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against
the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you,
excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” — Napoleon
Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.
23. “Fooling around with alternating current is
just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison,
American inventor, 1889 (Edison often ridiculed the arguments of
competitor George Westinghouse for AC power).
24. “Home Taping Is Killing Music”
— A 1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off
the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry.
25. “Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.” — Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.
26. “[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any
market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get
tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
27. “When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes,
electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.” –
Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson
28. “Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this
country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as
‘railroads’ … As you may well know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages
are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’
which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and
snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring
the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty
certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck
speed.” — Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?).
29. “Rail travel at high speed is not possible
because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” — Dr
Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and
Astronomy, University College London.
30. “The wireless music box has no imaginable
commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in
particular?” — Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s
call for investment in the radio in 1921.
Via the List Universe