The Rushmore Report – 15 Worst Predictions of All Time


There is an old saying that goes, “Predicting the future is easy; getting it right is the hard part.” As we look back on American history, we find all sorts of Nostradamus-wannabes who tried to predict how the future of technology would play out. Below are 15 such predictions that are among the worst predictions ever made.

1876: “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” (William Preece, British Post Office)

1876: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” (William Orton, President of Western Union)

1889: “Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it. Ever.” (Thomas Edison)

1903: “The horse is here to stay; the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” (President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, to not invest in the Ford Motor Company)

1921: “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” (Multiple sources)

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)

1955: “Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years.” (Alex Lewyt, President of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company)

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)

1961: “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.” (T.A.M. Craven, Federal Communications Commission commissioner)

1966: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.” (Time Magazine)

1981: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.” (Marty Cooper, inventor)

1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” (Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com)

2005: “There’s just not that many videos I want to watch.” (Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube, explaining why his venture would have little success)

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)

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

About the Author

Robert J. Szczerba is a contributor to Forbes.


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