Friday, June 20, 2008

Technologists always get it wrong, part 2

Back in 2005 I blogged some of the more famous quotes that were diametrically opposite of what turned out to be the case. Here are a few more I've collected. I wonder how (sometimes very eminent) people feel when they get it so wrong - when they fail to see the situation so dramatically. I think the Y2k hoax was a splendid example of this - where vested interests overtook sense and truth.

While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer, 1926.

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 F. Zanuck, Head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.

Radio has no future.
Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist.

This `telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1878

Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.
Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865 possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air...
Simon Newcomb (1835-1909), astronomer, head of the U.S. Naval Observatory

What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
The Quarterly Review, England (March 1825)

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859) Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French military strategist and World War I commander.

The Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996.
Robert Metcalfe, internet inventor

We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.
John Von Neumann, 1949

There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the Moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the Earth's gravity.
Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, University of Chicago astronomer, 1932.

There is growing evidence that smoking has pharmacological effects that are of real value to smokers.
President of Philip Morris, Inc., 1962

There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
Albert Einstein, 1932.

All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
Ronald Reagan, 1980

I am tired of all this thing called science.... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped.
Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, 1861 demanding the funding of the Smithsonian Institution be cut off.

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emissions standards for man-made sources.
Ronald Reagan, 1980

X-rays are a hoax.
Lord Kelvin, ca. 1900

Lord Kelvin features a little too heavily in this list for my liking! Also - Ronald Reagan clearly made comments about things he didn't understand.

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