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Ten Failed Technology Predictions

by Guy McCardle

July 17, 2011

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Donate Every generation has certain technological breakthroughs as well as detractors who say they will never catch on. I personally have yet to watch any 3D programming on the new 3D TV that our family bought for Christmas. Some concepts just seem so impossible or unlikely that people who ought to know better end up arguing against them. It is fortunate for us that the following predictions have been recorded for posterity and our amusement. Without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are my ten favorite failed technology predictions.

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. “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.

3. “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).

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

5. “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

6. “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

7. “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

8. “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

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 5000 at most.” " IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

When you hear an incredible statement about what technology can do, evaluate the concept skeptically, but keep an open mind. You don't want your statements to appear on a list like this one some day.

by Guy McCardle

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