Truly Terrible Tech Predictions

tech predction failsWe love to speculate about how technology will evolve, but we’re almost always wrong. There’s no doubt that many of the iPhone 6 rumours are incorrect, and that’s a gadget that will be revealed in just a few weeks!

So how wrong were people about 2014 technology decades or just a few years before? Many people certainly expected hover cars by now, but it’s doubtful anyone anticipated the likes of Google Glass. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest tech prediction fails.

The Harry Potter Effect

The Harry Potter brand is worth an estimated $15 billion, according to TIME. However, it’s a well-known fact that J.K. Rowling’s initial manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers, who must still be kicking themselves. Similarly, plenty of people failed to recognise the potential of certain technologies, leaving themselves red-faced later. TV and Phone In 1946, Darryl Zanuck, of 20th Century Fox, said: “[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.” Sir William Henry Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office in 1876, said: “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” And Ken Olsen, president of the Digital Equipment Corp, said: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”, back in 1977.

Apple Gets the Last Laugh

Apple_gray_logo Before its Macbooks and iDevices took the technology market by storm, plenty of people were sceptical about Apple’s future. Fortune published an article in February 1996 that said: “By the time you read this story, the quirky cult company […] will end its wild ride as an independent enterprise.” Many believe Steve Jobs single-handedly turned the company’s reputation around. However, even once Apple gained traction, commenters were doubtful it could succeed. Then-Microsoft-CEO Steve Ballmer told USA Today in 2007: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.” He went on to predict that Apple software would be on just two to three per cent of mobile phones. Kantar World Panel data shows that, in June 2014, Apple’s iOS had US market share of 31.5 per cent, compared to Windows’ 3.8 per cent. The iPad also attracted plenty of criticism, with people labelling it “just a bigger iPod Touch” and mocking the name. They were soon forced to swallow their words, as the iPad essentially conceived a thriving tablet market — one that it dominates.

Wishful Thinking?

Of course, many people predicted things that never came to be. In some cases, that’s a terrible shame. In others, not so much. In a 1967 CBS programme called The 21st Century, news anchor Walter Cronkite stepped into the imagined home of 2001. Here, newspapers are delivered to your printer via satellite, robots make your breakfast, and used plates are melted down and remoulded ready for the next meal.

The Underestimaters 

Incorrect tech predictions aren’t all about the doubters and the wishful-thinkers: they’re also about the underestimaters. Those who believed in the invention, but never dreamed it would be so successful. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, said: “I truly believe that one day, there will be a telephone in every town in America.” What recent predictions do you think we’ll be laughing at years down the line? Are we naïve or forward-thinking to imagine wireless electricity and 3D-printed meals are just around the corner?

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