Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Internet Will Fail—Eight Bold Predictions That Didn't Come True

THE INTERNET WILL FAIL:  That bold prediction was made by astronomer Clifford Stoll.  He was quoted in a 1995 Newsweek story, "The truth is, no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher, and no computer network will change the way government works."

Here we are, eighteen years later, and the newspaper industry is dying, people can earn college degrees online from accredited universities, and we can easily find information on anyone who has ever had their fifteen minutes of fame and even some who aren't that famous…yet.

Lots of people make predictions, many of whom are considered experts in their field.  And you have well-known prognosticators such as Nostradamus.  Five hundred years later people are still referring to his predictions and debating the validity of the interpretations of his quatrains.

Here's a list of eight bold predictions that failed miserably.

1)  "Using Twitter for literate communication is about as likely as firing up a CB radio and hearing some guy recite The Iliad."
—Science fiction writer and journalist Bruce Sterling.

Despite criticism, Twitter has proven itself to many thanks to its roles in breaking news and helping organize massive protests in the some of mid-East countries.

2)  "For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few…on the whole, people don't want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper."
—Erik Sandberg-Diment, founder of early computer magazine ROM as reported by The New York Times in 1985.

And today people are using a wide variety of handheld and easily portable electronic devices at the beach and on a train to while away hours, many of whom are checking on sports scores and the stock market.

3)  "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.  No chance."
—Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Obviously, not everyone agreed with Steve Jobs' vision about the device that has become a cultural icon in a few short years.

4)  "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
—Decca Recording Co., rejecting the Beatles in 1962.  And Dick Rowe, the Decca recording executive who made that fateful prediction, went on to say, "The Beatles have no future in show business."

And as they say, the rest is history!  The Beatles went on to release nineteen albums in seven years and sold approximately 140 million copies and I don't even want to guess how many singles.  To give Dick Rowe credit for learning from his mistakes, he did sign the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison.

5)  "TV will never be a serious competitor for radio because people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't time for it."
—author unknown, quoted in The New York Times in 1939.

It's very easy to take cheap shots at television, especially with some of the truly low-brow programming that's out there.  We've been told television rots our brains and turns our children on to sex and violence.  But to consider it a fad that will fade away?

And to add another television prediction:  "I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it."
—Viacom and CBS Chairman Sumner Redstone in a 1994 speech to the National Press Club.

6)  "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.  Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"—RCA response to David Sarnoff's pitch for investment in radio.

RCA rebuffed Sarnoff's vision in the 1920s, and he went on to found NBC and became one of the most influential executives in radio and television in a career that spanned fifty years.  After a few years, RCA did finally get it and jumped on the band wagon.

7)  "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."
—Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria in 1873.

We've come a long way, baby.  Today heart surgery, organ transplant, and neurosurgery are common occurrences.

8)  "Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices, especially since printed books are often deficient in spelling and appearance."
—15th century monk, Trithemius, wrote in his treatise In Praise Of Copying

And aren't we all glad his prediction fell flat?  Printed books, and now eReaders (see item #2) are certainly an integral part of our world.

Have any of you come across any predictions that totally and completely bombed…other than the prediction that the world would end on December 21, 2012?


Julie Robinson said...

Yes, I'm glad these have failed!
Knock on wood, but the one prediction that has not come true is the food crisis in America. If it were to come true (God forbid), then I suppose we wouldn't have an obesity crisis anymore . . .

Samantha Gentry said...

Julie: There are lots of 'serious' predictions that everyone hopes will be averted, such as the food crisis you mentioned. Some of them are possibilities rather than predictions of 'certainty'.

Thanks for your comment.