“Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.” – Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin – President of the British Royal Society, 1895.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899.
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” IBM’s Thomas Watson, 1943.
“Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them.” – Science Digest, August 1948
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977.
Can I just say how much I love science fiction and have done for a very long time? These quotes are applicable in so many situations and no more so than here. I’m not terribly old and I’ve seen most of these quotes proven wrong. Each quote has been predicated in science fiction long before they actually came to fruition.
Let’s take the first quote about flying machines not being possible dated from 1895. This one’s a bit challenging and I haven’t been able to find a reference in science fiction to flight earlier than Around The World In 80 Days by Jules Verne which was published in 1873 whereas the first hot air balloon flight has been logged as 1783, in Paris, France made by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes in a hot air balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers. Now, hot air balloons are not generally considered to be a flying machine. Here is where I ask my readers to help me with this problem. I know HG Wells in considered to be the father of science fiction and Jules Verne was also a pioneer of the genre, but I’d like to know if there is anyone else who wrote before this. Post your comment here for the next 14 days or after that email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inventions. It’s going to be so hard to specify a book or short story as there are so many. You could look at Isaac Asimov’s Robots series where he had robots who could move or think independently and looked very much like humans. In 2008 I went to see ASIMO, a robot who looks incredibly much like humans and is able to walk, run, climb stairs and interact with people – not independently as yet, but it’s coming. Then’s there’s TOPIO who can play table tennis against a human unveiled in 2005. Well, this is long after the short story Robot AL-76 Goes Astray published in Isaac Asimov in 1941.
Murray Leinster’s 1946 short story “A Logic Named Joe” contains one of the first descriptions of a computer (called a “logic”) in fiction. In the story, Leinster was decades ahead of his time in imagining the Internet. He envisioned logics in every home, linked through a distributed system of servers (called “tanks”), to provide communications, entertainment, data access, and commerce; one character says that “logics are civilization.”
I love the quotes by Thomas Watson and Ken Olsen. While I haven’t found the names of stories or books to predicate these they’re just so wrong and out-of-touch with the way things have gone it’s beyond funny. Yes, there are homes where computers aren’t almost built-in and I have many friends still without them but so many of us have more than one. If you read the Tom Clancy series of Net Force Explorers they have computers in their homes, chips in their heads so they can tune into these computers just by sitting in the right chair, and they also have mobile phones attached to their wrists. I seriously love the ideas contained within this series, don’t wait to have a young adult available to read them with just read them now.
I won’t bore you with any more details whether I have them or not as I think this is long enough already.