Wednesday, March 29, 2006

If Inventors Had Listened

"If E-mail had been around before the telephone was invented people would have said 'hey, forget e-mail - with this new telephone invention I can actually talk to people.' " Dave Barry

There's a new show on ABC called American Inventor. I've never watched it. I figured it was just another lame attempt to cash in on the public's seemingly unquenchable thirst to see other people make fools of themselves. And of course it is.

But then I got an email with some quotes from and about famous inventors and visionaries. And I realized no matter how fatuous the TV show might be, there's somebody out there working diligently to come up with the next paper clip ... or cure for cancer.

Think not? Take a look at these examples.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction." Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

"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, 1873.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo, 1876.

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

"Everything that can be invented has been invented." Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work, 1921.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in Gone with the Wind. 1929

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

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value." Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1936.

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

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 15 tons." Popular Mechanics Magazine, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

"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.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"But what ... is it good for?" Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the microchip, 1968.

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training." Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus machines, 1970

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express in 1971.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you; you haven't got through college yet.'" Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer, 1976.

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting her company, Mrs. Fields Cookies, 1977.

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

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." Spencer Silver on the work that led to 3-M Post-It Notepads, 1980.

"640k ought to be enough for anybody." Bill Gates, 1981



Blogger YankeeAmanda said...

Hey, I was just blogrolling and came across yours. Interesting post, inspiring me to continue to go beyond the "box" thinking that prevades our culture.

Thanks so much!

5:21 PM  

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