We Learn By Making Mistakes (2)


“We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.” 

Decca Recording Company on refusing to sign The Beatles in 1962.

2. Beatles



 “Rail travel is not possible because passengers, unable to breath, would suffocate.”


Doctor Dyonysius Lardner, 1830.

10. Trains



“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to seriously be considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Western Union Internal Memo 1876.

3. The Telephone



“How sir would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you, excuse me, I have not time to listen to such nonsense.”

 Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Stephen Fulton’s steamboat.

Note: Thank heavens (and Lord Nelson) that, although he was a brilliant military commander, Napoleon was absolutely hopeless on the high seas.  Otherwise we would all be speaking French now.

17. Steamships




“There will never be a bigger plane built.”

 Boeing engineer after the first flight of the 247 which held a maximum of ten passengers.

The Airbus A380 (pictured) can carry 853 passengers.

15. Planes



“The Americans have a need of telephones. We do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

 Chief Engineer of The British Post Office, 1878.

British snobbery at its best.

21. UK Telephone




“When the 1878 Paris Exhibition closes; electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it.”

 Oxford Professor Erasmus Wilson.

23.Electric Light Bulbs



“The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at best.”


IBM Executive to the founders of Xerox in 1959 (who ignored him and became millionaires).

Note: IBM made a lot of mistakes over the years. See example 13 below.

20. Photocopier



“I must confess that my imagination refuses to see a submarine doing anything other than suffocating her crew and floundering at sea.”

 H.G. Wells, 1901


19. Submarines



“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box all night.”

 Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.


9. TV



“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.”

 The President of Michigan’s Savings Bank advising the lawyer of Henry Ford not to invest in The Ford Motor Company, 1903.

12. Horse or Car



“X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”

 Lord Kelvin, President of The Royal Society, 1883

Note: The Royal Society represents only the top scientists in Britain and he was president!

7. X-rays



“I think there is a total world market for maybe 5 computers.”

 Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM 1943.

Note: IBM ended up playing “catch up” with the rest of the world.

11. Home Computers




“Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.” 

United Artists Executive who rejected the actor Ronald Reagan for the part of US president in their new film “The Best Man”.

In 1981 he was elected as the real president and served two terms until 1989. 

 4. Ronald Reagan




“Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognise it as a conspicuous failure.”

 Henry Morton, President of The Stevens Institute of Technology on Thomas Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

Note: Institute of “Technology”???!!!



8. Light Bulbs



“This wireless music box has no commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”

 Associate of David Sarnoff who was proposing investment in radio, 1921.

16. The Radio




 “No, it will make war impossible.”

 Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun answering a question about whether it would make war more terrible, 1893.

 Note: He hadn’t taken into account the sheer stupidity levels of all the nations’ leaders who ordered more and more ordinary men to the slaughter.


 14. Machine Gun




“The idea that horses will be replaced by these iron coaches is preposterous. It is nothing short of treasonable.”

 Aide-de-Camp to Field Marshall Haig at a tank demonstration, 1916.

Note: Such small minded people made battle decisions for our soldiers.

18. Tanks



“No man will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride there in a day for free.”


King William I of Prussia, 1864.

5. Train



“If smoking excessively actually plays a part in causing lung cancer it must be a minor one”


W. C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.

13. Smoking



My personal favourite:

“It’ll be gone by June.”


Variety Magazine’s verdict on rock music in, 1955.

22. Rock Music