Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Never mind

The perils of punditry are epitomized in a New York Times correction notice from July 16, 1969, the date of the Apollo 11 launch that put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. The notice retracts a 1920 editorial statement that, as a rocket can not function in a vacuum, space travel is impossible. Mathew Ingram thinks it may be the best correction ever.

Other past predictions from trusted sources, eventually proven grossly inaccurate, include:
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication." Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics, 1949

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

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
Lots more here.

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