Words of wisdom might not stand the test of time

May 17, 1999|By Ernest Murray

LUFKIN, Texas -- There's hardly a day goes by that I don't do or say something I wish I could take back. Words have a funny way of coming back to remind us all that we're not nearly so smart as we think. Here are some reasons to keep an open mind about the opinions of others:

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 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

"But what . . . is it good for?" -- engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"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 radio in the 1920s.

"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.)

"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 Wind."

"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.

"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 3M Post-It Notepads.

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

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

"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

Ernest Murray is managing editor of the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News.

Pub Date: 5/17/99

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