Tuesday, September 22, 2009

37 Failed Technology Predictions from the Past

Throughout history man has been making predictions of the future. With the advent of technology, the predictions moved away from religious topics to scientific and technological. Unfortunately for the speakers (and most of them were well-respected and widely-known public features), a big chunk of these failed predictions have been recorded for all future generations to laugh at. Actually, no one can be right all the time, so the failed predictions are not to be used to accuse the authors in lack of competency.

Following is a list of 37 feature predictions which never came true.

1.  High speed Rails

Dr. Dionysus Larder (1793-1859) predicted that
“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia”.
Dr. Dionysus was a professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University College London.

2.  Making of a Ship against Wind

When Napoleon Bonaparte was told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat in 1800, his statement was
“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.”
3.  Railroads is a bad system

Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, in 1830 wrote to the president that
“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”.
4.  Telephone has Shortcomings

It was printed in a memo at Western Union in 1878 (or may be 1876) that
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us”.
5.  Electric Light will close as well

Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson predicted that
“When the Paris Exhibition [of 1878] closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it”.
Today, we can’t expect life without electricity.

6.  British Post don’t Need Telephone

It seems British were not believing on fast communications. In 1878, British Post Office gave a statement that
“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys”.
How backward thought they were having.

7.  X-rays will be nothing but a Hoax

In 1883, the president of Royal Society Mr Lord Kevin stated that
“X-rays will prove to be a hoax”.
8.  Alternating Current – A waste of time

Thomas Edison was an American inventor. In 1889 he commented that
“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever".
Edison was fond of passing ridiculous arguments against his competitor George Westinghouse for AC power.

9.  Impossible Flight of Machines Heavier than Air

“Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.”
This was predicted by Simon Newcomb. The prediction turned false when The Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk 18 months later.

10.  Very Poor Energy by an Atom

Ernest Rutherford predicted that
"The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing".
He gave his statement just after splitting the atom for the first time. He further stated that
"Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.”

11.  Submarine will do nothing

HG Wells was a British novelist. In 1901, he stated that
“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea”.
Wish he was still alive to see how submarines are playing a role in defense of a country.

12. Automobile will never replace Horse

We can see how automobile has replaced horses. But in 1903, the president of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in Ford Motor Co. According to him,
“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”.
This means he was not trusting on mechanical engineering at all.

13.  Transmitting voice across the Atlantic

In 1913, Lee DeForest sold the stock of his Radio Telephone Company by making a prediction that
“It would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before many years".
14.  People want to see flesh and blood

In 1916, Charlie Chaplin, the actor, producer, director and studio founder, stated that
“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”.
It has been proved that audience is more interested towards love stories

15.  Cavalry will never be replaced by Iron Coaches

In 1916, Aide-de-camp passed his comment to Field Marshal Haig at the tank demonstration that
“The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous".
16.  Wireless Music box has no Value

When Associates of David Sarnoff was asked to invest in the radio in 1921, he stated that
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?”.
In modern era, people love going wireless.

17.  Projecting Man in Gravitational Field

In 1926, Lee DeForest again predicted that
“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”.
The thing to remember is that Lee DeForest was inventor of the vacuum tube as well.

18.  Bigger Plane?
“There will never be a bigger plane built”.
That was confidently said by a Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people. We can see Airbus A380 in action.

19.  Nuclear Energy will not be Obtainable

In 1932, Albert Einstein stated that
“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”
20.  Rocket will never leave Earth’s atmosphere

In 1936, New York Times predicted that
“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”
21. Rockets manufacturing is Impossible.

"Rockets are too far-fetched to be considered." -- Editor of Scientific American, in a letter to Robert Goddard about Goddard's idea of a rocket-accelerated airplane bomb, 1940 (German V2 missiles came down on London 3 years later).

22.  The bomb will never go off

In 1945, Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy during World War II, advised President Truman on the atomic bomb that
“This is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.”
23.  Television won’t capture any Market

In 1946, Darryl Zanuck predicted that
“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 was a movie producer of 20th Century Fox.

24.  Television is a Flash

Mary Somerville, the pioneer of radio educational broadcasts stated that
“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan".
He passed his statement in 1948 after the introduction of Television in market.

25.  Market for Copying Machines

IBM passed a statement to the eventual founders of Xerox that
“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.”
Furthermore, saying that
"the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production".
The statement was passed in 1959.

26.  Communication Space Satellites

T. Craven, FCC Commissioner in 1961 stated that
“There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.”
27.  Computers in Home

This was made by Ken Olson, the president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). In 1977, he passed a statement against computers which was that
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Being a founder of DEC, a maker of big business mainframe computers, he was still stating against computers which was really hilarious.

28.  Music Recording will kill Music

In 1980, a campaign was started by BPI claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry. The slogan for the campaign was set as
“Home Taping Is Killing Music”.
29.  Heavier than Air Flying Machines
“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”;
in 1895 Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society gave his statement.

30.  Nuclear-powered Vacuum Cleaners

Another interesting prediction made by Alex Lewis, president of vacuum cleaner company – Lewis Corporation, was
“Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years”.
31.  32-bit Operating System

Another hilarious prediction was made by Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft corporation, that
“We will never make a 32 bit operating system”.
The prediction turned false when Windows 98 was released by Microsoft.

32. Memory demand is Limited

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." or "No one will need more than 637 kilobytes of memory for a personal computer." are two variants of the same quote, often misattributed to Bill Gates in 1981. Gates has repeatedly denied ever saying this, and he points out that it has never been attributed to him with a proper source. In fact, the memory limitation was due to the hardware architecture of the IBM PC.

33. No Military Value of Using Airplanes

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." -- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1904.

34. Automobile Development

"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, Jan. 2 edition, 1909.

35. Telephone is Hoax

"A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires." -- News item in a New York newspaper, 1868.

36. E-commerce

"Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop - because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds." -- TIME, 1966, in one sentence writing off e-commerce long before anyone had ever heard of it.

37. Space Operations
“By the year 2000 we will undoubtedly have a sizable operation on the Moon, we will have achieved a manned Mars landing, and it’s entirely possible we will have flown with men to the outer planets.”
This is prediction of Wernher von Braun in 1969, who was  was a German American rocket physicist and astronautics engineer, becoming one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States.

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