The 10 Worst Technology Predictions of All Time

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We have yet another day, where almost all the action is in premarket or the first 15-30 minutes.  They just keep piling on, and I reiterate my call to only open the stock market for 30 minutes a day if this is all our market can offer.  That leaves us more time to help the US economy by shopping...

Since the market offers little of late outside of speculative daytrades, let us look at the lighter side.  Since we are in the annual prediction season, below the WSJ lists some of the worst technology predictions of all time; some of these are classics!*   Pertinent to our situation.... as I try to think of what can lead the US out of this employment mess, aside from creating countless more government jobs or a new housing bubble - I am hoping some game changing technologies that are in someone's garage or a lab can be the next big driver.

*please note - some of these quotes are controversial i.e. claims they were never uttered or taken out of context :)

  • Tis is the season for predictions, so Information Age bravely goes out on this limb: Most technology predictions for 2010 won't come true. The more we learn about how innovation happens, the less straight the lines of advance look.
  • (1) Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments, said Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus in 10 A.D.
  • This end-of-progress view has been echoed many times, including by Charles Duell, commissioner for the U.S. Patent Office, who in 1899 said, (2) Everything that can be invented has already been invented.
  • Here are the rest of my Top 10 Worst Technology Predictions, which prove that when it comes to tech, optimism pays:
  • (3)  The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys, Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office, 1878.
  • (4) Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? H.M. Warner, Warner Bros., 1927.
  • (5) I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.  (apparently this one is highly disputed)
  • (6) 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 Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946.  (wow)
  • (7) The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most, IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959.
  • (8) There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home, Ken Olsen, founder of mainframe-producer Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
  • (9) No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer—640K ought to be enough for anybody, Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981. (claimed to be taken out of context, which I assume to be true - since it was probably correct at the time - p.s. anyone else have one of those snazzy Commodore 64s?)
  • (10) Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput, Sir Alan Sugar, British entrepreneur, 2005.

On a related note, in the 2nd half of the article science fiction writer (think 2001) and futurist Arthur C Clarke had some amazing predictions in a book from the late 70s.

  • In The View from Serendip, published in 1977, Clarke predicted the Internet: Immediate access in the home via simple computer-type keyboards, and TV displays, to all the world's great libraries . . . And items needed for permanent reference could be printed off as soon as located on a copying machine—or filed magnetically in the home storage system.
  • In the same book, he also forecast email and online news: Facsimile services whereby letters, printed matter, etc. can be reproduced instantly. The physical delivery of mail and newspapers will thus be largely replaced by the orbital post office, and the orbital newspaper .

Pretty neat.

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