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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

9 All-Time Bad Tech Predictions Again

crystal ball graphic from Bobby Owsinski's Big Picture production blog
As we approach the 1000th post and 1 millionth page view of The Big Picture Blog, I thought I'd repost some of the more interesting posts from the beginning when there wasn't much of an audience. This one is just as interesting today as it was a bit over three years ago.
The prediction business is always like walking a tightrope over a waterfall. You're a lot more likely to fall off than make it to the other side. Here are a few of the most egregious forward-looking flubs of the past 112 years, courtesy of Info World:
  • "Everything that can be invented, has been invented." - Charles Duell, Commissioner of the US Patent Office, 1899
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, president of IBM, 1943
  • "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, executive at 20th Century Fox, 1946
  • "Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years." - Alex Lewyt, president of Lewyt vacuum company, 1955
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977
  • "Almost all of the many predictions now being made about 1996 hinge on the Internet's continuing exponential growth. But I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse." - Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, 1995
  • "Apple is already dead." - Nathan Myhrvold, former Microsoft CTO, 1997
  • "Two years from now, spam will be solved." - Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 2004
  • "The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a mouse. There is no evidence that people want to use these things." - John Dvorak, noted tech writer and columnist, February 1984.
The interesting thing about these predictions is who made them, as not many of them are lightweights. Let this be a lesson on being careful about making predictions. They sometimes come back to haunt you.

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Anonymous said...

I think Nathan Myhrvold's comment was true in its context. Had MS not invested $150 million into Apple in 1997, they would have gone out of business. Microsoft saved Apple from Bankruptcy and dissolution, fearing the antitrust implications should their main competitor die. Myhrvold played a role in that, so it's a little disingenuous to use this quote as a bad tech prediction.

Bobby Owsinski said...

Perhaps, but I think the point was that no one expected Apple to do much more than survive, let alone thrive like it has.

Unknown said...

Anon, your comment is one hundred percent wrong. Apple, even in 1997, was sitting on several billion in cash reserves (although nothing like what they have now). Sorry to say, but even in '97, $150 million was just a drop in the bucket. That $150 million was a good faith gesture from Microsoft (along with the continued development of Mac Office), for which they got in return Internet Explorer being the default browser on the Mac (at the height of the IE/Netscape Navigator browser wars), which was instrumental in MS crushing their rival, Netscape, in the web browser field. Microsoft gained MUCH more than Apple from that. (Not to mention that $150 mil was nonvoting stock, so they had no control over what happened to their money, and they very much reaped the monetary rewards of their investment.)


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