They Said It Would Never Work: Embarrassing Quotes From Techno-Skeptics


Over the years many scientists, inventors and other skeptics have dismissed several ideas and technological developments as far-fetched ideas with no substance or standing. Here are a few inventions which were considered pointless or too problematic to work, but which became extremely successful and, in some cases, changed the way we live our lives.

The Television

“While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.”
–Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer, 1926.

“Television won’t be able to hold on to 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, Head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.

As we all now know, these two gentlemen got it very wrong! The television has become one of the most popular inventions of all time: billions are sold every year with technology improving year on year and almost every household in the developed world has at least one television.

The Computer

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
–Ken Olson, President of Digital Corporation, 1977

“We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.”
–John von Neumann, 1949

Computers have arguably become the single most important invention of all time. They now control cars, aeroplanes, phones, televisions and nearly every device and system we have. As with televisions most households in the West now own at least one computer with many having multiple devices. They help us in all areas of life and commercially, most businesses are fully reliant on their computer systems.

The iPad

“There isn’t a compelling incentive to get mainstream consumers to buy the iPad”
–Research firm Simpson Carpenter

The Light Bulb

“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.”
–Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

Wrong again! As we all know, the light bulb was one of the most important inventions of the 20th century and one still in very widespread use, with constant developments being made to the design.


“Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.”
–Dennis Gabor, British physicist, 1962.

The Telephone

“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.

The telephone and now mobile phones are the single most popular way to communicate with someone some distance away. They are becoming more and more sophisticated with the most recent smartphones able to connect to the internet, send e-mail and take pictures and videos as well as making phone calls.

So there it is, a look at some of the damning things important had to say about major, upcoming technologies at the time. It just goes to show, you never know when the next big thing is coming!

It’s a good job the naysayers were wrong, else there’d be no Ladbrokes Bingo.

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