What the Experts Said
- "No Civil War movie ever made a nickel."
[MGM Executive Irving Thalberg to Louis B. Mayer about film rights to "Gone
with the Wind"]
- "Rembrandt is not to be compared in the painting of character with our extraordinarily gifted English artist, Mr. Rippingille."
[John Hunt, British editor, scholar and art critic]
- "Babe Ruth made a great mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star."
[Tris Speaker, commenting on Babe Ruth's plan to change from being a
pitcher to an outfielder]
- "Can't act. Slightly bald. Also dances."
[RKO executive, reacting to Fred Astaire's screen test]
- "Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 19,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1.5 tons."
[Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949]
- "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
[Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943]
- "I have traveled 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]
- "But what . . . is it good for?"
[Advanced Computing Systems division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the
- "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
[Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, 1977]
- "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 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]
- "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. Smith went on to found
Federal Express Corp.]
- "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
[H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927]
- "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and
not Gary Cooper."
[Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The
- "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]
- "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
[Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962]
- "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
[Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895]
- "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"
- "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.' Atari said 'No.' So then
we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need
you. You haven't gotten through college yet.'"
[Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP
interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer]
- "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
- "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
- "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high
[Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929]
- "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
[Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecol Superieure de
- "Everything that can be invented has been invented."
[Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899]
- "Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
[Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872]
- "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]
- "640K ought to be enough for anybody."
[Bill Gates, 1981]
- "What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?"
[The Quarterly Review, England, March 1825]
- "The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it. . . . Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."
[Dr. Alfred Velpeau (1839) French surgeon]
- "Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean."
[Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1838) Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College, London]
- "The foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd length to which vicious specialization will carry scientists working in thought-tight compartments."
[A.W. Bickerton (1926) Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Canterbury College, New Zealand]
- "When the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more be heard of."
[Erasmus Wilson (1878) Professor at Oxford University]
- "Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value."
[Editorial in the Boston Post (1865)]
- "That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced."
[Scientific American, Jan. 2, 1909]
- "Radio has no future"
[Lord Kelvin, ca. 1897]
- "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, 1926 (American radio pioneer)]
- "There is not the slightest indication that (nuclear energy) will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will."
[Albert Einstein, 1932]
- "The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of the atom is talking moonshine."
[Lord Rutherford (1871-1937) physicist and chemist, Nobel laureate]
- "It is significent that despite the claims of air enthusiasts, no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs."
[in program for Army-Navy football game, November 29, 1941]
- "This isn't a kindergarten for amateur writers. I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."
[editor for San Francisco Examiner, firing Rudyard Kipling from his early-career job as a reporter]
- "a huge dose of hyperbolic slang, maudlin sentimentalism and tragic-comic bubble and squeak,"
[a contemporary New Monthly Magazine review of Melville's Moby Dick]
- "Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."
[Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859]
Of General Interest