17 technology quotes that backfired badly

It’s never fun to be proven wrong. Making a bold statement whether something is going to happen or not can set you up to be a visionary, but only if it comes true. If it goes horribly wrong though, it has the potential to haunt you for the rest of your life.

It can be especially damaging if you happen to be in a position of authority or a supposed expert in your field. And in the field of technology there have been several instances of high ranking figures claiming some new invention will flop or underestimating the impact of the supposed next big thing. Here are 17 technology quotes that backfired badly.

1) 1876: “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” William Preece, British Post Office (After several evolutions, the introduction of the telemessage in 1982 effectively ended the need for messenger boys).

2) 1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” William Orton, President of Western Union (Today there are estimated to be over 9 billion mobile phones in circulation, more than the number of people in the world).

3) 1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” Thomas Edison (Following the ‘war of the currents’ of the 1880’s with George Westinghouse, AC is now used worldwide).

4) 1903: “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.” President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company (Today there are estimated to be a billion cars on the roads around the world).

5) 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM (Today there are estimated to be two billion computers in use around the world).

6) 1946: “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 Zanuck, 20th Century Fox (Today there is estimated to be at least one television set in 1.4 billion households around the world).

7) 1955: “Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years.” Alex Lewyt, President of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company (While the product has become a reality, it is not used by many due to the dangers of nuclear power, highlighted by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986).

8) 1959: “Before man reaches the moon, your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles.  We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.” Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General (Man landed on the moon in 1969, while rocket mail has still to become a reality).

9) 1966: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” Time Magazine (Amazon online has reached over $200 billion turnover over the last several years).

10) 1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” Marty Cooper, inventor (There are estimated to be just over a billion landlines worldwide compared to 9 billion mobile phones).

11) 1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com (In 2019 an estimated 4.13 billion people have regular internet access).

12) 1996: “Apple is a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future.”- TIME Magazine (As of 2019, Apple’s net worth has been sitting around $940 billion).

13) 1997: “I’d shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders.”- Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell, Inc. (As of early 2020, Apple’s share price is over $300).

14) 2004: “Two years from now, spam will be solved.” Bill Gates (Today 90% of all emails sent are categorised as spam).

15) 2005: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch.” Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube expressing concerns about his company’s long term viability (The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month is estimated to be approx. 3.25 billion).

16) 2006: “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone.  My answer is, ‘Probably never.'” David Pogue, The New York Times (The first iPhone was released in 2007 and since then over 2.2 billion handsets have been sold worldwide).

17) 2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO (Approx. more than 40% of mobile phone handsets are believed to be iPhones).


To learn more about all our upcoming events, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *