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Friday, October 10, 2014
Famously Wrong Predictions From the Past
Predicting the future can be a daunting, if not a sometimes embarrassing
occupation. I have already posted on this topic a few times because as a writer
of historical fiction I think it adds something when characters look ahead and
wonder what the world will be like in one hundred or two hundred years.
Unfortunately, not all of us can be accurate prognosticators.
Even the geniuses and giants of science and industry have faltered from time to
Here are a few examples:
television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility--a development
which we should waste little time dreaming about."--Lee de Forest, 1926, inventor of the
cathode ray tube
think there is a world market for maybe five computers."--Thomas J. Watson, 1943, Chairman of the
Board of IBM
doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything."--Albert Einstein's teacher to his father,
will be years - not in my time - before a woman will become Prime Minister."
--Margaret Thatcher, 1974
'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of
communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."-- Western Union internal memo, 1876
don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles,
the hell wants to hear actors talk?"--H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927, pooh-poohing the idea of sound in
ought to be enough for anybody."-- Bill Gates, 1981
Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." -- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at
in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." -- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the
relentless march of science, 1949
don't need you. You haven't got through college yet." -- Hewlett-Packard's rejection of Steve Jobs,
who went on to found Apple Computers
are interesting toys, but they have no military value."-- Marshal Ferdinand Foch in 1911
Marshal Ferdinand Foch
over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't
likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market."-- Business Week, 1958
happens, the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping." -- Frank Knox, U.S. Secretary of the Navy, on
December 4, 1941, three days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
·"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." --
Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics,
Yale University, October 16, 1929, thirteen days before the "Black
Tuesday" stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.
Then, there these gaffes from the past:
·King George II said in 1773 that the American
colonies had little stomach for revolution.
·An official of the White Star Line, speaking of
the firm's newly built flagship, the Titanic, launched in 1912, declared that
the ship was unsinkable.
·In 1939 The New York Times said the problem of
TV was that people had to glue their eyes to a screen, and that the average
American wouldn't have time for it.
·An English astronomy professor said in the early
19th century that air travel at high speed would be impossible because
passengers would suffocate.
Someone once said that an optimist is someone who thinks the
future is uncertain.