A United Artists executive found out in 1964 sometimes looks can be deceiving when he rejected Ronald Reagan for the lead role, as a presidential candidate, in the film, The Best Man. Saying that he did not have the presidential look. Seventeen years later, in 1981, Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States.
Edison’s light bulb was met with scorn: scientist Henry Morton of the Stevens Institute of Technology predicted the invention would be ‘a conspicuous failure’ and a British parliamentary committee, apparently determined to keep Old Blighty in the dark ages, concluded the light bulb was ‘good enough for our transatlantic … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.’
Alexander Graham Bell approached American communications company Western Union and offered them rights to his patent for $100,000, but company bigwigs balked at the proposal citing the ‘obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy.’
In 1926, one year after Scottish inventor John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of a working television in London, American radio pioneer Lee De Forest proclaimed the device a commercial and financial impossibility, calling it ‘a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.’ 20 years later people still weren’t convinced, with film producer Darryl Zanuck stating ‘people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night’ in 1946.
In 1933 following the maiden flight of the world’s first modern passenger aircraft, the 10-seater Boeing 247, an engineer is reported to have claimed, ‘There will never be a bigger plane built.’
In 1899, The Literary Digest magazine had this to say about automobiles: ‘The ordinary ‘horseless carriage’ is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.’ Four years later, Detroit lawyer Horace Rackham was advised by the president of the Michigan Savings Bank that, ‘The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad,’.
In the 1920s, Lee De Forest said of space travel, ‘I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances’ while The New York Times similarly stated, ‘A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.’.
In 1949 – one year after the world’s first stored program computer, the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, made its debut in Manchester, England – a Hungarian-American mathematician declared, ‘We have reached the limit of what is possible to achieve with computer technology.’ Even as the capabilities and functions of computers grew the founder of computer company Digital Equipment Corp said in 1977, ‘There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’.
In 1981, Motorola’s then director of research Marty Cooper, who just eight years earlier had made the world’s first phone call by cell phone, stated that ‘Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems. Even if you project it beyond our lifetimes, it won’t be cheap enough.’
In 1966 the idea of online shopping seemed doomed at least to Time magazine. In an article titled ‘The Futurists: Looking Toward A.D. 2000,’ the magazine claimed, ‘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.’