Predictions That Were Really Off the Mark

Predictions That Were Really Off the Mark

It is always funny when experts get it wrong. Here are some classic predictions.

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons,” by Popular Mechanics, 1949.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” by Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented,” by Charles Duell in US Patent Office of 1899.

“The Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from space,” attributed as common knowledge and repeated. This is wrong on many levels. First, while you are still close enough to earth to actually see The Great Wall, you can also see road networks and other large objects created by man. There is, in fact, no distance from earth in which you can only see The Great Wall. By the time you get a few thousand miles away, you can see nothing manmade.

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere,” by The New York Times, January 13, 1920. The Times offered a retraction on July 17, 1969 as Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon.

“What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” by The Quarterly Review, March, 1825.

“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.” by Scientific American, January 2, 1909.

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” by Steve Ballmer, USAToday, April 30, 2007.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston. This is widely quoted but Olsen claims it’s taken out of context; that he was not referring to personal computers but to a household computer that would control the home.

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