Sunday, December 2, 2007

Vintage Web: Famous Completely Wrong Predictions

Prognostication is everywhere. Politics, sports, the stock market, the weather – entire industries have been built around attempts to find out what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next month or next decade.

It’s really amazing how the most intelligent, capable, and accomplished professionals can be completely wrong about where their industries are headed. I got this group of quotes when I was working at a public TV station as an internal marketing effort to get employees to think outside the box and expand their ideas of what was possible. I’ve kept the list ever since to set me straight whenever I start to think the pundits and “experts” might be onto something.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”
Drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859

“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

“When the Paris Exhibition closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.”Erasmus Wilson, Oxford University professor, 1878

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British physicist, inventor, president of the Royal Society, 1895

“Radio has no future.”
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British physicist, inventor, president of the Royal Society, 1897

“X-rays are a hoax.”William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British physicist, inventor, president of the Royal Society, 1900

“My figures coincide in fixing 1950 as the year when the world must go to smash.”Henry Adams, 1903

“The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad.”Michigan Savings Bank president’s advice to Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in Ford Motor Co.

“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

“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.”
New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work, 1921

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

“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”Irving Fisher, Yale economist, 1929

“A queer fellow who would never become chancellor; the best he could hope for would be to head the Postal Department.”Paul von Hindenburg, German president, about Adolph Hitler

“There is not the slightest indication that (nuclear) energy will ever be obtainable. That would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”Dr. Albert Einstein, 1932

“Forget it Louis. No Civil War picture ever made a nickel.”
Irving Thalberg to Darryl F. Zanuck, about “Gone with the Wind”

“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”

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”
Thomas Watson, founder, IBM, 1943

“People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
Darryl F. Zanuck, commenting about television, 1946

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son - you ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
Jim Denny, manager, Grand Ole Opry, to Elvis Presley

“Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.”
Alexander Lewyt, President, Lewyt Corp, 1953

“Space travel is utter bilge.”
Richard van der Riet Wooley, British Astronomer Royal, 1956

“I have traveled the length and breadth of the country, and have talked with the best people in business administration. I can assure you on the highest authority that data processing is a fad and won't last out the year.”
Editor, Business books, Prentice Hall, on why he turned down a manuscript on the new science of data processing, 1957

“You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married.”
Emmeline Snively, Director, Blue Book Modeling Agency, to Norma Jean Mortenson (later known as Marilyn Monroe)

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

“Amid general plenty, politics will simply fade away.”Buckminster Fuller, 1966

“If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women.”
David Riesman, Harvard sociologist, 1967

“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

“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 service; Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation

No comments:

Post a Comment