Worst tech predictions ever

T3 unveils the worst tech predictions ever made, from the notion that the iPod wouldn't last, to the genius assumption that the mobile phone isn't needed in the UK. It's a right crystal balls up.

Many a tech Nostradamus has attempted to pip gadgets to their fruition post. Some of the predictions are uncanny and searing in their foresight. And then there are these...

 

Computers aren't for home use
Arguing against the PC in 1977, Ken Olsen - president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers - argued there was no reason for anyone to want a computer in their home. One word, Ken: porn.

 

Gates' memory lapse
He may be the richest and most successful boffin of our times, but Bill Gates still makes mistakes, just like a normal person. He allegedly stated in 1981 that nobody would ever need more than 640KB of memory on their personal computer. Three words, Billy boy: lots of grumble. To be fair, he denies having said this, and as he's only ever said one other memorable thing (see the following), we're inclined to believe him.

 

Letters by rocket
If US postmaster general Arthur Summerfield had been correct in his 1959 assumption that, "We stand on the threshold of rocket mail", we'd be cowering in the cellar with a year's supply of tinned goods every time the annual influx of Christmas cards was due. Especially if the couple upstairs had their Dyson RollerNuke Megatron DC16 throbbing in the broom cupboard.

 

Mobiles not needed in the UK
In 1878, Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the Post Office, patriotically announced that, "the Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys". What a wonderfully genteel world it was back then: "Oi, mister! Your wife's on a train, so she is. It's runnin' late - what a palaver!"

 

Nobody's perfect...
If Bill Gates is allowed to make mistakes, then so are we. That's why we've been trawling through the T3 archives to find some of our own predictions for 2009. According to our younger selves, voice recognition will mean home PC users will, "dispense with their keyboards altogether", telephone boxes will be replaced with "multimedia kiosks with fax facilities" and "ships will swim like fish". Naturally, everyone connected with these claims was fired on the spot, and this issue's Hot in 2009 feature will feature no such outlandishness. Guaranteed.

 

Nuclear cleaning
T3's Health & Safety Invention Award 2009 goes to Alex Lewyt, president of the Lewyt Corp vacuum company, who, in the nuke-crazy atmosphere of mid-1950s America, informed the New York Times of his belief that, "Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years." Noteworthy runners-up include the home atom splitting kit ("fun for all ages!") and the uranium bidet.

 

Spam is dead
Another tech clanger from the trailblazing Mr Gates came at the funfest that was the 2004 World Economic Forum, at which he said: "Two years from now, spam will be solved." Now we're not multi-millionaire geniuses, but even we know that any message with subject line: "RE:Message4382PenislargerBIGTIMEJpleasure$$$" isn't going to be from our Grandad or employer.

 

The iPod: sure-fire flop
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in February, 2005, gruff Amstrad mogul Sir Alan Sugar predicted that, "Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput." Since this insightful remark we've mentioned the iPod and its many incarnations exactly 12 billion times, whereas we've mentioned Amstrad... well, actually just this once as it happens.

 

Thinking big
In 1933, after the first flight of the Boeing 247, a plane that could hold ten people, a proud Boeing engineer reportedly said, "There will never be a bigger plane built." You have to admire that kind of ambitious thinking. Rumour has it he was later given a job selling cheap electronics by a gruff, stubbly-faced east London businessman, who enjoyed the frequent uttering of swear words.

 

Transparent lie
Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, said in 1883 that, "X-rays will prove to be a hoax". Shortly after, an ancestor of Peter Jones declared he was "out" before the great grandfather of Theo Paphitis proved the only existing X-ray machine to be "flimsy" by kicking it into a million little pieces.

 

TV won't last
In 1946, nearly a decade after television became commercially available, 20th Century Fox movie mogul Darryl Zanuck stated that TV wouldn't last because people would, "soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." Imagine Zanuck's embarrassment when he discovered the rest of the world was watching the 1940s equivalent of X-Factor on their televisions, and he'd been sold an actual plywood box.

 

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