Famously Wrong Predictions From the Past

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

Predicting the future can be a daunting, if not a sometimes embarrassing occupation. I have already posted on this topic a few times because as a writer of historical fiction I think it adds something when characters look ahead and wonder what the world will be like in one hundred or two hundred years.

Unfortunately, not all of us can be accurate prognosticators. Even the geniuses and giants of science and industry have faltered from time to time.

Here are a few examples:

“Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility–a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.”-Lee de Forest, 1926, inventor of the cathode ray tube

 “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”–Thomas J. Watson, 1943, Chairman of the Board of IBM

“It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”-Albert Einstein’s teacher to his father, 1895

“It will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become Prime Minister.” —Margaret Thatcher, 1974

Margaret Thatcher

“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

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” –Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962 

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”-H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927, pooh-poohing the idea of sound in film. 

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”-Bill Gates, 1981 

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” –Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872 

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” –Popular Mechanics, forecasting