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 [ BACK]  [NEXT]                      Issue #002 - 08/25/1996

Son of The Sunday Funnies

Wish I Hadn't Said That...

Hello again!
     Everyone makes a mistake now and again, especially when they
are talking about predictions of the future.  For someone watching
the Wright Brothers first hop in 1903, it wouldn't have taken too
much imagination to see that maybe airplanes could fly between
cities.  Or maybe even carry some mail.  But predicting baggage
carousels, stewardesses, jetways, and airplanes that have wingspans
twice the length of that first flight would have been almost
impossible, even for a Jules Verne or George Orwell.
     But we don't have to get that extreme.  Just ordinary,
everyday, bad predictions are enough for us.  Most of these are
just too short sighted, and some are just stupid.  It just goes to
show that 'the best authority' isn't always the most reliable at
predicting the future.  Things happen in too strange a way for
that.  But it makes life fun.  In some cases, the companies that
made these decisions walked away from millions (or billions) of
dollars in the long run.  But would we have made the same decision
in their case?  Who knows, and that's the fun of it!
     Anyway, here are the best of the worst predictions ever

     Bad Quotes from Famous People

  -  "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." 
          Popular Mechanics Magazine, forecasting the relentless
          march of science, 1949 

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

  -  "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 

  -  "But what ... is it good for?"  
          Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of
          IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

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

  -  "640K ought to be enough for anybody."  
          Widely Attributed to Bill Gates, 1981 

  -  "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.

  -  "The 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 the radio in the 1920s.

  -  "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.) 

  -  "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"  
          H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927. 

  -  "We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial
     greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to
     waste his time, and the money involved, in further airship
          New York Times editorial, December 10, 1903 - exactly
          one week before the Wright Brothers first flight at
          Kitty Hawk.

  -  "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his
     face  and not Gary Cooper."  
          Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading
          role in "Gone With  The Wind." 

  -  "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research
     reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy
     cookies like you make."   
          Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs.

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

  -  "In my humble opinion, the picture will be a colossal flop. 
     It lacks the dazzle, charm, wit, imagination and broad
     audience appeal of 'Star Wars'."
          Movie reviewer William Flanagan on the release of
          "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", before it made a
          few hundred million dollars.

  -  "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."  
          Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895. 

  -  "If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the
     experiment.  The literature was full of examples that said
     you can't do this."  
          Spencer Silver on the work that led to the  unique
          adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads. 

  -  "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing
     thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you 
     think  about funding us?  Or we'll give it to you.  We just 
     want to do  it.  Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' 
     And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and 
     they said, 'Hey, we don't need you.  You haven't got through 
     college yet.' "  
          Apple  Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to
          get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's
          personal computer. 

  -  "I see no reason why 1931 should not be an extremely good
          Alfred P. Sloan, on the Depression.  (1931 was the year
          unemployment exceeded 25%.)

  -  "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.  (In all fairness, the Times
          did print a retraction - July 17, 1969, just before the
          first moon landing.)

  -  "No mere machine can replace a reliable and honest clerk."
          Remington Manufacturing on their decision not to
          acquire the rights to the typewriter.

  -  "You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development
     across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a
     fact of  life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle
     development as  an unalterable condition of weight
          Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable"
          problem by inventing Nautilus. 

  -  "Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and
     find oil? You're crazy."  
          Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to  enlist to his
          project to drill for oil in 1859. 

  -  "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high
          Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 

  -  "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." 
          Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole
          Superieure de Guerre. (French War College)

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

  -  "Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
          Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse,
  -  "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut
     from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."  
          Sir John  Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed 
          Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

© 1996 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.