Last modified on 28 August 2014, at 11:05

Incorrect predictions

Sometimes, someone says something that turns out to be an incorrect prediction. In hindsight, however, the people who said these things may have had good reasons for thinking they were right.

SourcedEdit

Space travelEdit

  • A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.
    • 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.
  • To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth—all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.
half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.

Transportation technologyEdit

  • What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
    • 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.

ComputersEdit

  • Where a calculator like the ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1½ tons.
    • Andrew Hamilton, "Brains that Click", Popular Mechanics 91 (3), March 1949, (pp. 162 et seq.) at p. 258. Notwithstanding that events have proceeded greatly since the prediction was fulfilled, this was a correct prediction in the short-term.
  • There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.
  • There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.
    • Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston. This is widely quoted but Olsen claims it is taken out of context, that he was not referring to personal computers but to a household computer that would control the home.
      Reference: "Ken Olsen", Snopes, includes bibliography.

MiscellaneousEdit

  • Democracy will be dead by 1950.
    • John Langdon-Davies, A Short History of The Future, 1936.
  • With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.
  • Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires as may be done with dots and dashes of Morse code, and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.
    • Unidentified Boston newspaper, 1865
    • Quoted in Jehl, Francis (1936). Menlo Park Reminiscences (1st edition ed.). Dearborn, Michigan: Edison Institute. pp. unidentified page (of 430). 
    • Re-quoted in Gregory, Richard Langton (1994). "What Use Is a Jelly Baby?". Even Odder Perceptions. Routledge. pp. p. 18. ISBN 0415061067. 
  • No "scientific bad boy" ever will be able to blow up the world by releasing atomic energy.
  • The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions.
    • Albert Abraham Michelson, Light waves and their uses, University of Chicago Press, 1903. The first sentence is often quoted out of context, completely misrepresenting his intent.
  • Every attempt to refer chemical questions to mathematical doctrines must be considered, now and always, profoundly irrational, as being contrary to the nature of the phenomena. . . . but if the employment of mathematical analysis should ever become so preponderant in chemistry (an aberration which is happily almost impossible) it would occasion vast and rapid retrogradation....
  • The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.
    • Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, page 145.
  • I do not myself think that any civilized nation will torpedo unarmed and defenceless merchant ships.


DisputedEdit

  • There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement.
  • 640 K ought to be enough for anybody.
    • Variation: No one will need more than 640 kilobytes of memory for a personal computer.
    • Attributed to Bill Gates, 1981
    • Gates has denied saying either variation, and no verifiable source is known.


MisattributedEdit

  • Everything that can be invented has been invented.
    • Charles H. Duell, Comissioner of the US Patent Office, 1899.
    • Although most commonly attributed to him, (it has also been attributed to anonymous US Patent Office employees of varying dates, as well as British ones), there is no evidence that Duell ever held this opinion, let alone stated it. [1]
  • I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
    • Thomas J. Watson, chairman of IBM, on seeing the first mainframe computer in 1943.
    • There is no evidence that Watson ever said this. See his Wikipedia article for more information.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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