An Ode to Human Progress: WSJ Op-Ed- “Technology Predictions Are Mostly Bunk”

December 27th, 2009

The ability of the human mind to invent, innovate, and create, never ceases to amaze me. This WSJ Op-Ed has some of the most near-sighted and ignorant quotes from man, who questioned the ability of progress and human ingenuity.

“Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments,” said Roman engineer Julius Sextus Frontinus in 10 A.D.

Charles Duell, commissioner for the U.S. Patent Office, who in 1899 said, “Everything that can be invented has already been invented.”

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys,” Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office, 1878.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner, Warner Bros., 1927.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“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, 1946.

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most,” IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,” Ken Olsen, founder of mainframe-producer Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

“No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer—640K ought to be enough for anybody,” Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981.

“Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput,” Sir Alan Sugar, British entrepreneur, 2005.

In a word, Fail.

In 1997 when I was in the 7th grade, a friend told me that computers had reached their peak, and that nothing revolutionary was left to be created. I didn’t quite understand then what I understand now, but I immediately thought that proposition was preposterous. In hindsight, as cool as 56K modems, AOL 3.0, and Windows 95 were, I think technology has progressed.

The only obstacle hindering the ability of the mind to create is not limitations of the human ingenuity, but the oppressive stronghold of the state. Shrug.