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November 06, 2003

Messing up your predictions

I have to give a presentation at an event next week, and the audience is likely to hang around bored for 10-15 minutes before the whole thing starts. I like those slides at the cinemas, with questions about movies or quotes from actors to keep you entertained so for the occasion I decided to make a little automatic rotating slide show of technology predictions that have turned out to be completely wrong,  like the "I think there's a world market for about 5 computers." by IBM's Chairman T. J. Watson. (Of course I am only putting them up so I don't look too stupid myself if I goof up some prediction...)

I collected 15 of them, and I am  sure you have seen many of these before,  but just for the fun of it here they are in a list: ...

"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”
Dr. Lee De Forest

"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."
The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"I think there's a world market for about 5 computers.”
Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board, IBM (around 1948)

“The ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered a means of communication.”
Western Union Internal Memo, 1876

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk ?”
Harry M. Warner, Warner Bros, 1927

“There is no reason for any individuals to have a computer in their home.”
Ken Olsen, President, Chairman and Founder of DEC, 1977

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society 1895

“640K ought to be enough for anybody”
Bill Gates, 1981

"The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives."
Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project

“We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles in 1962

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

“This wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in Radio in the 1920’s

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”
Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superiure de Guerre

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible."
A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

Posted by Werner Vogels at November 6, 2003 12:28 PM

Excerpt: That's a stellar idea for the situation & really funny too. I am sure that it can go down in Prof. Birman's 'Tips for Presenting a Systems Paper'. I was wondering why don't we include these little, simple marketing tips...
Weblog: Snapshots from Hell
Tracked: November 6, 2003 05:46 PM
Technology Predictions Gone Wrong...
Weblog: Geek Noise
Tracked: May 1, 2004 06:20 PM

Bill Gates denies having ever said that. It appears to be one of those urban legends that everyone knows but nobody can find an original source for.

Posted by: Me on November 7, 2003 12:09 AM

All fun stuff!

Two points:

1. Chairman Gates denies having ever said 640K ought to be enough for anyone. There doesn't seem to be any original interview source for the quote. That one could be an urban legend.

2. Guy Kawasaki's "Rule for Revolutionaries" has a huge list of these quotes, you might want to mine it for nuggets.

Posted by: Reginald Braithwaite-Lee on November 8, 2003 10:21 AM