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Hilarious Predictions From Years Past (Guess What…No One Can Predict the Future)

past predictions

harriet gross Author: Harriet Gross  

Every new year calls forth predictions.  Some come true.  Some do not – and may look sadly ironic, perhaps even humorous, when revisited after a number of additional New Year’s have passed.

Have fun reading the following:

“How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck?  I pray you, excuse me. I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.” Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”  Oxford Professor Dionysius Lardner, 1830

“No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.” King William I of Prussia, speaking of trains in 1864

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.  The device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union internal memo, 1876

Source: Pelican/Flickr
Western Union Internal Memo, 1876 Source: Source: Pelican/Flickr

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not; we have plenty of messenger boys.” Sir William Preece of the British Post Office to A.G. Bell, 1878

“When the Paris Exhibition closes, electric light will close with it, and no more will be heard of it.”  Erasmus Wilson, Oxford professor, 1878

“Edison’s light bulb? Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.” Henry Morton, president of Stevens Institute of Technology, 1880.

“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”  Lord Kelvin, president of the British Royal Society, 1883

Source: Yale Rosen/Flickr
Prediction from Lord Kelvin Source: Source: Yale Rosen/Flickr ny, 1903

Asked if, as its inventor, the machine gun would make war more terrible, his response was “No.  It will make war impossible.” Hiram Maxim, 1893

“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.”  H.G. Wells, 1901

“The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”  Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company.

“The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd.”  An aide to British Field Marshal Haig at a tank demonstration, 1916

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.  Who would pay for a message sent to no-one in particular?” David Sarnoff’s associates’ response to his request for investment in radio, 1921.

“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau”, Economist Irving fisher, October 1929.

Economist Irving Fisher in October 1929, three days before the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression.
Economist Irving Fisher in October 1929, three days before the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression. Source: buzzfeed.com

 

“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

“A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” New York Times, 1936

“I think there is a world market for – maybe – five computers.” Thomas Watson, IBM chairman, 1943

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”  20th Century Fox movie producer Darryl Zanuck, 1946

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”  W.C. Heuper of the National Cancer Institute, 1954

“It’ll be gone by June.”  Variety Magazine’s comment on Rock’n’ Roll, 1955

Variety magazine, 1955.
prediction from Variety Magazine 1955 (source: buzzfeed.com)

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.” IBM forecast to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” Decca Recording Company, declining to sign the Beatles, 1962

“Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.”  A United Artists executive, rejecting Ronald Reagan for lead in the film The Best Man, 1964

“For the tourist who really wants to get away from it all: a safari in Vietnam.”  Newsweek’s suggestion for a holiday vacation, late 1960s.

“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop”, Time magazine, 1968.

Time magazine, 1968.
Time magazine, 1968 Source: buzzfeed.com

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”  Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, speaking to the World Future society, 1977

“I predict the internet will so go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse, Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, in InfoWorld magazine, December 1995.

Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, in InfoWorld magazine, December 1995
Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, in InfoWorld magazine, December 1995.
Source: fifighter.com

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No Chance.” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 2007.

It’s kind of scary when you think about it. No one can possibly know what the future holds. We can make educated guesses…but as you can see, even the wisest and smartest among us are not always right.

Now: if you have favorites of your own – please share!  Hope 2019 is going unpredictably well for you!

 

Header Image: Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, in InfoWorld magazine, December 1995. Source: fifighter.com

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