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12 tech visionaries who made hilariously bad predictions

They don't always get things right

12 tech visionaries who made hilariously bad predictions

All the time, we make stupid predictions that turn out be unequivocally wrong. And we expect that of ourselves. Because we're idiots.

But we don't expect it from the brightest business brains and tech-heads in history. And that's why, when they do screw up, it's so damn fun to point and laugh in their faces.

Because they're successful. And they deserve it.

With that in mind, we've gathered up some of the worst tech predictions ever made. Enjoy.

 

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” - 1943

Who said it: Thomas Watson, President of IBM

What happened next: Chances are, you have as many as five computers in your home (if you count your laptop, various iGadgets and wi-fi enabled toasters). As the hulking machines shrunk in size and price, desktop computing exploded across the western world.


“Everyone's always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, 'Probably never.” - 2006

Who said it: David Pogue, Technology Editor of The New York Times.

What happened next: Apple released the first iPhone a year later, but still faced cynicism from the technology industry. We all know what happened after that (and if you don't, look it up on the iPhone you invariably own).


"The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." - 1878

Who said it: Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office.

What happened next: as much as we like the idea of replacing our WhatsApp groups with armies of Emoji-faced messengers, you can't stand in the way of progress. Telephones soon became integral to British business and, before, long its citizens.


"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." - 1946

Who said it: Darryl Zanuck, studio executive at 20th Century Fox.

What happened next: As a Hollywood magnate, perhaps this was wishful thinking by the movie mastermind. He was dead wrong, however, and the humble TV took the world by storm.


"Two years from now, spam will be solved." - 2004

Who said it: Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

What happened next: Check your email.


“Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” - 1889

Who said it: Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb and other cool stuff.

What happened next: He was wrong, of course, and continued to spout hogwash for years to come, including: 

“It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the (flying machine) problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.”

And...

“The radio craze will die out in time.”

Oh Eddy.


“I predict the internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” - 1995

Who said it: Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com.

What happened next: Metcalfe promised to "eat his words" if his prediction turned out to be false - and true to his words, he used a food processor to liquify a copy of his article and drank it at a conference in 1997. Fair play.


“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” - 2007

Who said it: Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.

What happened next: Today, Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and the iPhone is the marketshare leader in smartphones. Ballmer left shortly after, which is a shame, because his dance moves were outstanding.

 


"The iPod will never take off. Next Christmas it will be kaput." - 2005

Who said it: Alan Sugar, founder of Amstrad.

What happened next: In 2006 alone, the iPod sold over 39 million units, and sales continued to rise thereafter.

Sugar made other Apple-related mistakes. He lamented the fact that he didn't follow their lead into the phone business, talking of his similarities to Steve Jobs...

"Steve Jobs had a vision, he's a marketing man. I met him quite a few times, we kind of grew up in the electronics industry together, with him and Bill Gates and myself."

Course you did, Alan. Course you did.


“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” - 1903

Who said it: President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company (Ford being the bloke pictured)

What happened next: Horace Rackham didn't listen, and he ultimately sold his shares for $12.5 million in 1919.


"Apple is already dead" - 1997

Who said it: Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft.

What happened next: The second coming of Steve Jobs inspired Apple to become the most valuable company in the world. Nathan quit Microsoft to co-author Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.


"We stand on the threshold of rocket mail" -1959

Who said it: Arthur Summerfield, US postmaster general.

What happened next: After numerous failed attempts to make the idea work, the U.S post service scrapped all plans to implement the costly scheme. 

More than fifty years later, we now stand on the cusp of drone mail. Fairly similar to rocket mail, except without the danger of decapitating someone with a 100mph papercut.