Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

10:25 am 12 Jan, 2013

Have you ever met a person, who claims to know it all? Well, we often come across a foolish breed of people, who like making predictions about the world without having any strong proof to support those claims. But there are some who, despite having the gift of intellect, made predictions on humanity’s progress that failed. Their predictions about different technologies and their future seemed plausible given their standing in the society but time proved them wrong. And so, here’s a list of the top 10 failed tech predictions ever made in the history of mankind.

 10. H.G. Wells on submarines:

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

The famous British novelist HG Wells used his imagination a bit too casually when he claimed that submarines had no use and they would simply suffocate people to death. A few years later, when the World War II reached its peak, his claims were nullified. Without submarines no country can expect a naval dominance on the seas.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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9. Napoleon Bonaparte on steamboats:

“What Sir, would you make a ship sail the wind and current by lighting a bonfire under her deck?” – Napoleon Bonaparte 1800

This is what was once said by Napoleon to Robert Fulton about a steamboat. It seems hard to imagine, why someone as tactically brilliant as Napoleon would question the application of technology, but nonetheless, there are always times when we are repulsive to advancements and maybe Napoleon could never imagine how burning coal would heat water to steaming point making a boat run on steam power.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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8. Dr. Dionysius Larder on high speed rail travel:

“Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because passengers, unable to breather will die of asphyxia.” – Dr. Dionysius Larder

Ok, now this one really makes you laugh. We travel in planes, at altitudes where oxygen is really scarce and yet no one dies of asphyxia. And, talking about rail travel, even the fastest moving trains, traveling at speeds of 300mph have not really caused people to die of asphyxia or severe deficiency of oxygen.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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7. Lord Kelvin on X-Rays:

“X-Rays will prove to be a hoax.” – Lord Kelvin, 1883

One of the greatest discoveries of science, X-Rays was despised by the Lord Kelvin. He was the president of the Royal Society and probably never expected development in the technology to render X-Rays useful. Today, X-rays are widely used for diagnosis and treatment of various ailments including cancer.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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6. Charlie Chaplin on cinema:

“The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audience really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” – Charlie Chaplin, 1916

Although we doubt Charlie Chaplin made this remark, it seems purely an emotional one for the reverence and love he had for the stage. An actor, producer, director, Chaplin’s love for live performances on stage was enough to block his vision for the kind of cinema we enjoy today.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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5. The New York Times on TV:


“TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it.” – The New York Times, 1939

Yes, people do get tired of redundant technologies and if TV were to remain the same old metal box that ran a single channel then American’s wouldn’t have bothered to keep one. But, technological changes, and introduction of LCDs and Plasmas along with the multiplicity of channels has made TV an indispensable part of our lives. We cannot imagine living without a TV these days and hence this indeed counts among’st the major failed tech predictions.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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4. Horace Rackham on cars:

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — Horace Rackham, 1903

This absurd statement was an advice made to Henry Ford by his lawyer Horace Rackham. He was the president at the Michigan Savings Bank. He was strictly against the incorporation of the Ford Motor Corp and dissuaded Ford to invest money. We are glad Henry Ford was not dissuaded and started with the first ever assembly line production of automobiles. Look at your car and those around; thank Henry Ford for that.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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3.  New York Times on space travel

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

Yes, the New York Times was really bad at predicting technological advancements. Some 10 years after this statement was issued different nations across the globe had at least researched well with rocket science. These countries included Germany, Russia and America. It was in the year 1957 when the Soviet Union left the world stunned with the launch of the first fully-fledged satellite, Sputnik, into space. To show American prowess in satellite technology, NASA also launched its first satellite Explorer 1, 1958. The rest is history.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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2.  Western Union on telephone:

 This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876

What are a telephone’s ‘shortcomings’? You might find none but the people at Western Union believed there were. And boy! Were they wrong? The greatest technological development of the 19th century that continues to this day in a much advanced form was derided by some in the then society. The introduction of different web based apps into telephony continues and most people believe they will keep changing the way we communicate.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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1. Ken Olson on Computers:

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, 1977

The president, chairman, and the founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation, Ken Olson specialized in making big business mainframe computers. According to his prediction in 1977, there was not a chance that computers would ever be used domestically. Honestly, I couldn’t have written this without a computer and you wouldn’t have been reading this. This website too wouldn’t have existed had there not been a personal computer with millions around the globe. Therefore this definitely deserved to top the list of failed tech predictions.

Top 10 Failed Tech Predictions

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