Top 87 Bad Predictions About the Future

Two_women_operating_ENIAC Just what it says: here are 87 predictions about the future (and the original list at Wikipedia this list appears to be based on) that turned out, as the future became the present (and then, inexorably, the past) to be Just Plain Wrong. (Via John C. Wright.)


The section on computers gives you a taste:

  • «Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.» – Popular Mechanics, March 1949.
  • «There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.» – Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.
  • «I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.» – The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
  • «But what… is it good for?» – IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 microprocessor, the heart of today’s computers.

UPDATE: Added link to Wikipedia list of failed predictions, which the list appears to be based on.

(U.S. Army Photo via Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]predictions, futurism, computers[/tags]

7 thoughts on “Top 87 Bad Predictions About the Future”

  1. The IBM 650 (1955) had 2000 tubes and weighed only about 3 tons. Tubes were mostly gone by 1960 although 650s were still being made then. The Popular Mechanics prediction was right in a sense but failed to account for the fact that “the future” is a moving target.

  2. I didn’t see the other great Bill Gates quote: “640k is enough for anybody”.

    There’s an old science-fiction story online, by Fritz Lieber (“The Creature from the Cleveland Depths”) that has a little reminder gadget, that used a tiny wire recorder. (You wore it on your shoulder, and it tickled you whenever there was a reminder.) It would hold all your reminders for the next few weeks. That’s a great example of extrapolating current technology way past the time when it gets replaced by completely new technology.

  3. Thanks for pointing that out, bingo. I’ve added a link to the Wikipedia list while keeping the link to the version, since they don’t match exactly.

  4. On Oct. 9, 1903, the New York Times wrote:

    “The flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years.”

    On the same day, on Kill Devil Hill, N.C., in his diary, a bicycle mechanic named Orville Wright wrote:

    “We unpacked rest of goods for new machine.”

  5. Most famous here in Sweden: Swedish communication minister in 1995 – “Internet is just a fad that will blow away, I don’t think people in the long run want to spend so much time, that it actually takes, to surf” (freely translated).

  6. I like to think of this list whenever someone mentions the impossibility of long-distance space travel.

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