The Foresight of Experts

"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

"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., 1977 (Said at about the time minicomputers, like those produced by DEC, were feeling the squeeze from microcomputers. The DEC computers were certainly not the kind of computers which would find their way into people's homes.)

"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 'telephone' referred to here probably was Bell's original design. This quotation was likely a smokescreen to avoid having to pay license fees to Bell for his current version. Within a year Western Union had set up the American Speaking Telephone Company in an attempt to exploit the new technology)

"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.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? The music! - That's the big plus about this." --H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927, talking about the future of movies with sound.

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

"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.

"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.

"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.

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

"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.)

"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 her company, Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

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

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

"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, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

"The desire to fix fleeting reflections is not only an impossibility, as very reliable experiments carried out in Germany have shown, but wanting to do so borders on sacrilege. God created man in his own image and no man-made machine can fix the image of God; He would have to betray His own eternal principles to permit a Frenchman, in Paris, to launch such a diabolical machine into the world." -- Leipziger Anseiger (a 19th century German newspaper), 1839 (Found in the display on the history of photography at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris.)

"These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal chord left. The vocal chord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape." -- attributed to John Phillip Sousa in a report to the U.S. Congress on the subject of the phonograph, early 20th century

Quotes which cannot be authenticated

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." --Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943 (Computers in 1943 were giant, expensive, energy intensive vacuum tube number crunchers. Although the market was limited, Watson and IBM clearly saw a market for more than five computers.)

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." --Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899. Repeated searches for the origin of this quote bring up nothing. It has been suggested that there may be a clue to its origin in an 1843 report to Congress by the then- Commissioner of the Patent Office, Henry L. Ellsworth who said "The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end." That this expression of frustration with the ever increasing number of patent applications should have been applied to another person more than 50 years later will at this writing have to remain a function of the reader's credulity in the matter.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." -- Bill Gates, 1981 (Bill Gates emphatically denies ever having said that.)