That Will Never Work


As a follow-up to my post last week “60 Excuses for a Closed Mind”, I give you the following statements.  Each of these statements is a prediction of the future in an area by people in that area.  Let us just say that the future turned out a little differently.  Like my “Collection of Sayings” and the “Excuses”, I have gathered these “predictions” over time.  When it was possible, the person who said it and the year it was said are listed.

While we will most definitely get a laugh out of some of these “predictions”, let us also keep in mind that, as we face the future, what we will encounter may not be what we think we will encounter.

“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

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

“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, Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873

“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

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

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

“No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris . . . [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping — Orville Wright (1871 – 1948)

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” — Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

“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 (David Sarnoff later became chair of the Radio Corporation of America, otherwise known as RCA).

“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 (The Times later retracted their statement)

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

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” — Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“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 maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

“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

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

“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 home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. in 1977

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates, 1981

“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 H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer

“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 training.” — Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus

“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 work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads

“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. Fields’ Cookies

“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.)

4 thoughts on “That Will Never Work

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

    IIRC, Decca then went on to sign the Tremeloes instead. Everyone remembers the Tremeloes, right? Right? Anyone? Hello?

  2. Tom,
    Thanks for the comment. I do remember the Tremeloes.
    I remember “Here Comes My Baby”. In doing a Google search, I found “Silence is Golden” and “Here Comes My Baby” on http://www.youtube.com. And the versions were current, not oldies.

    By the way, what does “IIRC” mean?

    Dr. Tony

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