Provided by: SocialCast Numerous technology pundits have made predictions about the future success of an idea, invention or product released to the market. Famous failed tech predictions are common in the world of technology. Sometimes even the experts cannot predict the success or failure of an idea. Many inventions that worked have become wildly successful after first being disparaged by great leaders. Several of these fail tech predictions will be discussed to show you that sometimes even our experts can be off-target.
1. Western Union’s Failed Tech Prediction
Western Union predicted in 1889 that the telephone would never be a primary mode of communication because it had too many “shortcomings.” Not only did the telephone become a primary mode of communication, but a necessity in every home and office. Later, the phone evolved to include mobile applications, as well as, Voice over Internet Protocol.
2. Thomas Edison’s Failed Tech Prediction
Thomas Edison’s invented the light bulb, but he could not predict the success of alternating current. In 1889, he went so far as to say that it was a “waste of time” and “[n]obody will use it, ever.” Later, alternating current was used in nearly every electrical home appliance. Consider the embarrassment he would have felt witnessing the transformation of the world using alternating current.
3. Thomas Watson’s Failed Tech Prediction
The President of IBM (International Business Machines), Thomas Watson predicted that there would only be a demand of five computers worldwide in 1943. Currently, there are computers in nearly every business, school and home. Can you imagine how the president of a company that makes computers and mainframes would feel if his prediction of five computers in the world, suddenly expanded to nearly two billion by 2015? That was surely not his greatest moment as a leader.
4. New York Times’ Failed Tech Prediction
This failed prediction was probably slightly difficult for the average person to understand and accept. Nonetheless, in 1936, when New York Times announced that a rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere, they, too, were proven wrong. By 1942, Germany had created and launched its first rocket beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
5. The U.S. Postmaster General’s Failed Tech Prediction
While the other failed predictions actually exceeded expectations, this failed prediction never even made it to the drawing board. Our esteemed leader, Arthur Summerfield, predicted in 1959 that our mail would be delivered via missiles. Mail would arrive in four hours from New York to Australia. While we did improve the speed of mail through email, a guided missile was not quite the mode of delivery that they world desired. This was not one of the failed inventions, but the prediction was off-target.
6. Time Magazine’s Failed Tech Prediction
Who has not looked to Time Magazine as a reputable source for news? Unfortunately, even they can be slightly off-base with their predictions. In 1966, Time Magazine predicted that “remote shopping….will flop.” Not only did it not flop, but over 85% of the world’s Internet population has made a purchase online. That equates to millions of people or more around the world. eCommerce certainly proved Time Magazine wrong.
7. GM Chairman’s Failed Tech Prediction
The GM Chairman in 1986 predicted that we would live in a paperless society by the year 2000. While email has taken a forefront in the business world, we are not completely a paperless society. Though, everyday designers work on new software that will prevent the use of paper in the office. With the use of electronic signatures and electronic organizers, paper use has declined significantly. However, we are not completely devoid of our use of paper.
8. Bob Metcalfe’s Failed Tech Prediction
Bob Metcalfe, the co-inventor of the Ethernet, predicted that in 1996 the Internet would suddenly collapse. The Internet has not collapsed and has grown over 445 percent since the year 2000. Luckily for him, nothing happened that would decrease his earnings from the expansion of the Internet through Ethernet.
9. Bill Gates’ Failed Tech Prediction
Even a great like Bill Gates is not without embarrassing moments. In 2004, he predicted that spam would be eradicated by 2006. However, by recent estimates 97% of email on the Internet classifies as spam. Unfortunately, for Bill and those of us that use the Internet, he was incredibly wrong.
Other failed predictions include the Flying Car (1924), Video Telephones (1962) and Machines that Can Perform the Work of Humans (1965). Each of these inventions are in production in some form or another, but have not reached the potential their predictors thought they might have by now.
Two other erroneous predictions include: Steve Ballmer’s prediction that iPhone would not gain significant market share, and Thomas Friedman’s prediction that Amazon’s stock did not reflect the profit it generates. They both were wrong. iPhone sold 73.5 million in 2010, and Amazon’s stock is worth between $175 and $200 per share.