9th April 2009


Pronouncement in 1943 by Thomas Watson, then chairman of IBM, who said:“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”.

Then there is Ken Olsen’s telling observation, who in 1977 in his capacity as president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment said: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”.

And what about an internal memo from company Western Union in 1876, which read: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us”.

The list goes on and on, but here is a selection of some of the ‘greatest’ all-time classics.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy” - Driller who Edwin L Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859.

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons”. - Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

“I have travelled 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.

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value”. - Marechal Ferdinand Foch, professor of strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

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

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

“I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Garry Cooper”. - Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in Gone With The Wind.

“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 1920's.

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” - II.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau”. - Irving Fisher, professor of economics, Yale University, 1929.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented”. - Charles H Duell, commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.

“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 H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.

“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.

“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. (Mr. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

“We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out”. - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“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.

“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 Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

“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 the unique adhesives for 3-M 'Post-It' notepads.

Advice from the world's richest man.... “640k (of RAM) ought to be enough for anybody”. - Bill Gates, 1981.

“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”. - 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.

“Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”. - Pierre Pachet, professor of physiology at Toulouse, 1872.


Best regards
Iain Pepper


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Iain Pepper
Head of Lending

Iain Pepper is a Vice-President and the Head of Lending for the La Trobe Group.Read full profile here.

La Trobe is one of Australia's leading independent specialist mortgage Financiers. Its business includes residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, and investment services operating one of Australia's largest Mortgage Funds under AFSL 222213. It employs over 145 staff and has raised over AUD$10Billion to assist over 100,000 customers since inception in 1952.

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