Not Prescient Technology Predictions

“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” -- attributed to Yogi Berra,
but originally by a wag in the Danish parliament during the 1930s.


1. "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" -- Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

2. "With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself." -- Business Week, 1968.

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. "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.

5. "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." -- Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.

6. "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.

7. "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.

8. "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 founder, 1916.

9. "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." -- Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

10. "The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most." -- IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959.

11. "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.

12. "[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.

13. "When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it." -- Erasmus Wilson, Oxford professor.

14. “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.” -- Bill Gates, president of Microsoft, in a BusinessWeek article, 1984.

15. “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” -- Time Magazine, 1966.

16. “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” -- Marty Cooper, inventor, 1981.

17. “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” -- Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet, 1995.

18. “I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time.” -- Bill Gates, president of Microsoft, 1987.

19. "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

20. This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

21. "Everyone's always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, 'Probably never.'" -- David Pogue, The New York Times, 2006.

22. "Two years from now, spam will be solved." -- Bill Gates, president of Microsoft, said at World Economic Forum, 2004.

23. "Apple [is] a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future." -- Time Magazine, February 5, 1996.

24. "Apple's erratic performance has given it the reputation on Wall Street of a stock a long-term investor would probably avoid." -- Fortune, February 19, 1996.

25. "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad." -- the president of the Michigan Savings Bank, 1903.

27. "Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from NewYork to Australia by guided missles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail." -- Arthur Summerfield, US Postmaster General, 1955.

28. "The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt" -- Steve Jobs, to Rolling Stone magazine, 2003.

29. "There's just not that many videos that I want to watch." -- Steven Chen, co-founder of YouTube, 2005.

30. "Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition." -- Jim Keyes, Blockbuster, 2008.

31. "What use could this company make of an electrical toy?" -- William Orton, president of Western Union, when offered Alexander Graham Bell's invention, 1876.

32. "What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches? -- The Quarterly Review, March, 1825.

33. "That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced." -- Scientific American, January 2, 1909.

34. "X-rays will prove to be a hoax." -- Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, 1883.

35. "A rocket will never be able to leave the earth's atmosphere." -- New York Times, 1920.

37. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” -- Harry M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Brothers, 1926.

38. “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” -- Ferdinand Foch, French military leader, 1911.

39. “The world’s climate is changing. Of that scientists are firmly convinced … Sooner or later, a major cooling of the climate is widely considered inevitable.” -- New York Times, May 21, 1975.

40. “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.A.M. Craven, FCC Commissioner, 1961.

41. “Radio has no future.” -- Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, 1897.

42. "We will never make a 32-bit operating system." -- Bill Gates, , president of Microsoft, 1989.

43. “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, circa 1917.

44. “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” -- Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889.

45. "Titanic passengers all rescued: Giant new liner limping in toward Halifax, badly damaged." -- Syracuse Herald, 1912.

46. "No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free." -- King William I of Prussia, on trains, 1864.

47. "If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one." -- W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.

48. “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, 1916.

49. "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, 1901.

50. "The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous." -- Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, writing in Technical World magazine, October 1912.

51. "There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of the atom." -- Robert Millikan, American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, 1923.

52. "Computers of the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." -- Popular Mechanics, 1949.

53. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 2007.

54. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” -- Attributed to Charles H. Duell, Director of US Patent Office 1898-1901.

55. "By 2005 or so, it will become clear that Internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's. " -- Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, 1998.


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