fun & games
"Missed it by THAT much!"
Predictions that were slightly off the mark
Irish scientist Dr. Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859) didn’t believe that trains could contribute much in speedy transport. He wrote, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers ‘would die of asphyxia’ (suffocation).” Today, trains reach speeds of 500 km/h (311 mph).
In 1927, H.M. Warner, of Warner Brothers fame, asked, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” In 1936, Radio Times editor Rex Lambert thought that “Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.”
In 1943, Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM, forecast a world market for “maybe only five computers.” Years before IBM launched the personal computer in 1981, Xerox had already successfully designed and used PCs internally, but decided to concentrate on the production of photocopiers. Even Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said in 1977, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
After the invention of the transistor in 1947, several U.S. electronics companies rejected the idea of a portable radio. Apparently it was thought nobody would want to carry a radio around. When Bell put the transistor on the market in 1952, they had few takers apart from a small Japanese start-up called Sony. They introduced the transistor radio in 1954.
In 1894, A.A. Michelson, who with E.W. Morley seven years earlier experimentally demonstrated the constancy of the speed of light, said that the future of science would consist of “adding a few decimal places to the results already obtained.”
In 1954, a concert manager fired Elvis Presley, saying, “You ought to go back to driving a truck.” In 1962, Decca Records rejected the Beatles, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
In 1966, Time magazine predicted, “By 2000, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy.” In that year, too, CoCo Chanel said about miniskirts: “It’s a bad joke that won’t last; not with winter coming.”
Sometimes a few decimal places make a massive difference. Investment banks rely on computer models to direct trading activity. In August 2007, Goldman Sachs, hedge funds and other quant funds were left exposed by a series of market swings, each of which their software predicted would occur only once every 100,000 years. Goldman Sachs required a $3 billion bailout, with other banks joining the handout queue.
Perhaps the guy who got it most wrong was the commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents. In 1899, Charles H. Duell assured President McKinley that “everything that can be invented has been invented.”
For more interesting Fun Facts, go to didyouknow.org