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*ghosts with soft teeth*

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"Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further developments."

Julius Sextus Frontinus, Roman Engineer, AD 10.


"Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax."

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, British physicist, 1899.


"Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breath, would die of asphyxia."

Dionysius Lardner, British scientist, 1823.


"This 'telephone' has too many short comings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. This device is inherently of no value to us."

Internal memo, Western Union, 1876.


"That's an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?"

President Rutherford B. Hayes to Alexander Graham Bell, 1876.


"I have anticipated [radio's] complete disappearance _ confident that the unfortunate people, who must now subdue themselves to 'listening-in' will soon find a better pastime for their leisure."

H.G. Wells, The Way the World is Going, 1925.


"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

H.M. Warner, Warner Bros, 1927.


"The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn't time for it."

The New York Times, after a prototype demonstration at the 1939 World's Fair.


"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."

Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology, Toulouse, 1872.


"However fascinating it may be as a scholarly achievement, there is virtually nothing that has come from molecular biology that can be of any value to human living."

Frank MacFarlane Burnet, Nobel Prize winning immunologist (1899-1985).


"There will be no epidemics. There will be no incurable diseases."

Norman Bel Geddes, Ten Years from Now, 1931.


"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."

John Eric Ericksen, Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.


"Teeth will disappear in about 75 years from now, because the food of the future will be concentrated and made directly from chemicals so that there will be no strain on the digestion, or gums."

Editor, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1900.


"We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."

Winston Churchill, "Fifty Years Hence" in Popular Mechanics, 1930.


"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.


"1930 will be a splendid employment year."

U.S. Department of Labor, 1929.


"Law will be simplified [over the next 100 years]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed."

Junius Henri Browne, Journalist, 1893.


"Man will never reach the moon, regardless of all future scientific advances."

Lee DeForest, Radio Pioneer, 1957.


"Before man reaches the moon your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail."

Arthur Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General, 1959.


"It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything."

Albert Einstein's teacher, 1895.


"The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives."

Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project.


"There will never be a bigger plane built."

A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane holding ten people.


"Houses will be able to fly [by the year 2000] The time may come when whole communities may migrate south in the winter, or move to new lands whenever they feel the need for a change of scenery."

Arthur C. Clarke, Vogue, 1966.


"It would appear we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements; they tend to sound pretty silly in five years."

John von Neumann, computer scientist, 1949.


"Despite the trends to compactness and lower costs, it is unlikely everyone will have their own computer any time soon."

Stanley Penn, The Wall Street Journal, 1966.


"But what is [the microchip] good for?"

Engineer, Advanced Computing Systems Division, IBM, 1968.


"I predict the internet will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse."

Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld, 1995.


"The end of the world will surely come

in eighteen hundred and eighty one."

- Mother Shipton, English prophet, c.1600.


"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin." - Cardinal Bellarmine, on Galileo's trial, 1615.


"The telephone may be appropriate for our American cousins, but not here, because we have an adequate supply of messenger boys." - group of British experts, c.1900.


"[by 2000] every river or creek with any suitable fall will be equipped with water motors, turning dynamos, making electricity" - John Elfreth Watkins, Jnr, Ladies' Home Journal, 1900.


"I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning." - J Rayleigh, leading British physicist, 1896.


"Aircraft are interesting toys, but of no military value." - Marshal Foch, France, 1912.


"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - Associates of David Sarnoff, manager of an early US radio network, 1920s.


"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossiblity, a development on which we need waste little time dreaming." - Lee de Forest, "father of radio", 1926.


"Television won't be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." - Darryl F Zanuck, 1946.


"An automaton may be contrived that will have its 'own mind'." - Nikolai Tesla, 1900.


"I think there is a world market for as many as 5 computers." - Thomas Watson, head of IBM,1943.


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


"I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." - Editor of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.


"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." - Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977 (who was wrong, even then; maybe he had a very narrow idea of what people did at home).


"There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be available. It would mean the atom would have to be shattered at will." - Albert Einstein, physicist, 1932.

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Some predictions from Herman Kahn and Anthony Wiener's 1967 book The Year 2000:
100 Technical Innovations Very Likely in the Last Third of the 20th Century:

- "Human hibernation for relatively extensive periods (months to years)."

- "Physically nonharmful methods of overindulging." [in the movie, Dr Strangelove was a caricature of Herman Kahn.]

- "Artificial moons...for lighting large areas at night."

- "Stimulated and planned and perhaps programmed dreams."
(About 50 of the 100 predictions were more or less correct.)

The first American demonstration of the videophone was on 14 November 1920, when 4 pictures were wired between New York and St Louis. In 1975, Telecom Australia predicted up to 200,000 videophones in Australia by 2000. The actual figure: about 50. See "On the persistence of lackluster demand - the history of the video telephone" - Steven Schnaars and Cliff Wymbs, in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2004, vol. 71, pages 197-216.

"The 'death ray' for destroying aircraft is a potentially valuable weapon" - Lt Cmdr Fitzhugh Green, US Navy, 1924.

In December 1938, Lloyds of London was offering odds of 32 to 1 that there would be no war in the following year. In 1939, World War II began.

"Before the twentieth century closes, the earth will be purged of its foulest shame, the killing of men in battle under the name of war." - Andrew Carnegie.

"The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty." - President of Michigan Savings Bank, 1903, advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Company.

[When cars are in general use] "we shall probably find public taste changing so that many people will prefer to travel from place to place more slowly than at present" - Cleveland Moffet, USA, 1900.

[by 2000,] "the automobile will have driven out the horse... The trip from suburban home to office will require a few minutes only." - J E Watkins again, 1900. (OK, so this one came true, but considerably earlier than stated)

"The actual building of roads devoted to motor cars is not for the near future, in spite of many rumors to that effect." - Harper's Weekly,, USA, August 2, 1902.

"Automobiles will start to decline as soon as the last shot is fired in World War 2. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter." - Harry Bruno, aviation publicist, 1943.

"A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires." - News item in a New York newspaper, 1868.

"I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious sensibilities of anyone." - Charles Darwin, in the foreword to his book, The Origin of Species, 1869.

"It will be years - not in my time - before a woman will become Prime Minister." - Margaret Thatcher, October 26th, 1969.

"Reagan doesn
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