Can you imagine a world without a home computer or a cell phone? If expert prognosticators had been right, that’s exactly where we would be living now. “As we all know, foretelling what’s going to happen in five, 10 or 30 years is pretty much impossible, but some predictions are so spectacularly wrong that they should be immortalized,” says Mark Spoonauer, editor-in-chief of Laptopmag.com, which assembled a list of the worst tech predictions of all time. Our five favorite are listed below.
The top five worst tech predictions ever:
1. The iPhone has no chance.
The prediction: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” –Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO in USA Today in April 2007. What really happened: The iPhone has captured 42 percent of the U.S. smartphone market share and 13.1 percent of the worldwide market.
2. Who needs a home PC?
The prediction: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” –Ken Olson, president Digital Equipment Corp. at the World Future Society meeting in Boston in 1977. What really happened: Olson claims he was taken out of context, but DEC lost the mainframe war to IBM and never became a real player in the PC market. In 1992, he was replaced as CEO, and in 1998, DEC was sold to Compaq. Oh, and just about everyone has a home computer–or two or three.
3. Remote shopping will flop.
The prediction: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.” –TIME magazine in 1966. What really happened: To be fair, what TIME meant by “remote shopping,” was catalog shopping. Sexist reasoning aside, e-commerce changed everything. In 2012, e-commerce sales from all sites topped $1 trillion. Apparently women have more important and interesting things to do now than handle merchandise.
4. The Internet will collapse.
The prediction: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.” –Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, in InfoWorld in 1995. What really happened: Metcalfe figured that the Internet’s capacity and infrastructure could not withstand the incredible demand and so it would collapse. So far, so good. It’s holding up OK.
5. Landlines rule.
The prediction: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems. Even if you project it beyond our lifetimes, it won’t be cheap enough.” –Marty Cooper, director of research at Motorola, in the Christian Science Monitor in 1981. What really happened: In case you didn’t know, Marty Cooper is credited as being the father of the cell phone, and even he didn’t foresee its potential. On the other hand, cell phones, which were the size of bricks, were outrageously expensive then. But he had no idea how cell phones would free people to be so mobile and still connected. Today, only 8 percent of adults have a landline phone and no mobile phone.