Not So Prescient 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 his home" -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., in a talk given to a World Future Society meeting in Boston, 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 Lee DeForest, the "Father of radio" and inventor of the vacuum tube, for selling stock fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company, 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, the "Father of radio" and inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926.

5. "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." -- Lord Kelvin, British mathematician, physicist, and 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, 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, noted physicist, 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, 1803.

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, English surgeon, and dermatologist, 1878

14. “The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.” -- Bill Gates, president of Microsoft, in a Business Week 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 of the first handheld cellular mobile phone, 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. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- 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, weekly New York Times tech columnist, 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 advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company, 1903.

27. "Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York 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, the former CEO of 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 general, military theorist, and Allied Commander-in-Chief during WW1, 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, formulated the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and 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, the "Father of nuclear physics", 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, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, 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.” -- H.G. Wells, British science fiction 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 have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh one and a half 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. "... most people have nothing to say to each other! 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.

56. "There is no danger that the Titanic will sink. The boat is unsinkable and nothing, but inconvenience will be suffered by the passengers." -- Phillip Franklin, White Star Line vice-president, 1912.

57. "It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and the markets are plunging ... If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never ..." -- Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Nov. 9, 2016.

59. "No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer. 640K ought to be enough for anybody." -- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 1981.

60. "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. on rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

61. "We can close the books on infectious diseases." -- William H. Stewart, Surgeon General of the United States speaking to the U.S. Congress, 1969.

62. "Ours has been the first [expedition], and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality." -- Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon, 1861.

63. "Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia." -- Dr. Dionysys Larder, science writer and academic, 1828.

64. "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, pioneer of American radio, responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio, 1921.

65. "While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility." — Lee DeForest, the “Father of Radio” and a pioneer in the development of sound-on-film recording used for motion pictures, 1926.

66. "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year." -- Editor of Prentice Hall business books, 1957.

67. "The idea of a personal communicator in every pocket is a pipe dream driven by greed." -- Andy Grove, then CEO of Intel, 1992.

68. "Talking films are a very interesting invention, but I do not believe they will remain long in fashion." -- Louis-Jean Lumičre, inventor of the Cinematograph, 1929.

69. "Reagan doesn't have that presidential look." -- United Artists executive after rejecting Reagan as lead in the 1964 film The Best Man, 1963.

70. "Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure." - -Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison's light bulb, 1880.

71. "No, it will make war impossible." -- Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question 'Will this gun not make war more terrible?' from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893.

72. "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, 1933.

73. "By the year 2020, it may be possible to breed intelligent species of animals, such as apes, that will be capable of performing manual labor." -- RAND Corporation, a global think tank, 1994.

74. [By the 21st Century] "This simple, practical, foolproof personal helicopter coupe is big enough to carry two people and small enough to land on your lawn. It has no carburetor to ice up, no ignition system to fall apart or misfire: instead, quiet, efficient ramjets keep the rotors moving, burning any kind of fuel from dime-a-gallon stove oil or kerosene up to aviation gasoline." -- Popular Mechanics, 1951.

75. "Dresses of asbestos that will be as lustrous as silk and will give long wear, with ease in cleaning." -- Popular Mechanics, as predicted by an eastern scientist, 1929.

76. "humans arrive on Mars.[... in 2020]" -- Wired magazine writers, Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden, 1997.

77. "... the house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel. The baby of the 21st century will be rocked in a steel cradle. His father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother's boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings." -- Thomas Edison in an interview with Miami Metropolis, 1911.

78. "... within a century, coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. The abolition of stimulants will not come about forcibly. It will simply be no longer fashionable to poison the system with harmful ingredients." -- Nikola Tesla, inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist, 1937.

79. " ... the federal government had complete control over the economy. They will select their levels of employment, of industrialization, of increase in GNP [... in 2018.]" -- Ithiel de Sola Pool, contributor to Toward the Year 2018 (a book published by the Foreign Policy Association) after a conference in New York City, May 1968.

80. "There is a chance I may be able to see the year 2018 myself, and if so, I shall not be surprised if on my 92nd birthday I am able to go for a ride in an antigravity car," -- D.G. Brennan, Toward the Year 2018 contributor, mathematician and national security expert, May 1968.

81. "his 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.

82. "Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan." == Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

83. "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.

84. "The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon." -- Sir John Eric Ericson, Surgeon to Queen Victoria, circa 1875.

85. "Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is rediculous fiction." -- Pierre Pachaet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

86. "We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy." -- Simon Newcomb, Astronomer, 1888.

87. "I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here ... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped." -- Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator, on the Smithsonian Institution, 1901.

88. "By the time you read this story, the quirky cult company…will end its wild ride as an independent enterprise." -- Fortune, February 19, 1996.

89. "Whether they stand alone or are acquired, Apple as we know it is cooked. It's so classic. It's so sad." -- A Forrester Research analyst, January 25, 1996.

90. "The NeXT purchase is too little too late. Apple is already dead." -- Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's chief technology officer, June 1997.

91. "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.

92. "For all of his success, all Steve Jobs had really accomplished was a temporary pause in Apple's long-term decline." -- Infinite Loop, by Michael S. Malone, 1996.

93. "I'd shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., 1997.

94. "... for a man to ride a spaceship, travel to the moon and come back to the earth is a wild dream”, -- Lee DeForest, Audion inventor, 1926.


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