Predictions gone wrong

Predictions gone wrong

Summary: While attending a Red Hat event sometime last month, a video made by the company truly captivated me, and many others in the room.The video did not try to sell Red Hat.

TOPICS: Open Source

While attending a Red Hat event sometime last month, a video made by the company truly captivated me, and many others in the room.

The video did not try to sell Red Hat. It showed what the open source movement stood for, despite being mocked by some quarters in the software industry.

If history is any indicator, most new inventions go through a phase of ridicule. There were skeptics who claimed that Alexandra Graham Bell's telephone had too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.

In 1899, the U.S. Patent Office commissioner stated that everything that can be invented has been invented. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb and phonograph, even said the radio craze will die out in no time.

In 1901, Wilbur Wright, one of the Wright brothers who made the first flight on an airplane eventually, said "man would not fly for 50 years", after a disappointing flying experience.

It's not just the famous and influential people who have dismissed man's early inventions. Scientific American, a science and technology magazine, also said in 1909 that the automobile has practically reached its limit of development.

In 1936, the venerable New York Times claimed that a rocket will never leave the Earth's atmosphere.

During information technology's nascent days, IBM's former chairman Thomas Watson in 1943, said: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

Ken Olson, founder of now-defunct Digital Equipment Corporation, said in 1977 that "there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home".

Even analyst company Gartner thought Linux was just hype du jour.

In 2001, Bill Gates said Microsoft thinks of Linux as a competitor--but only in the student and hobbyist market, not in the commercial software world.

An about-turn came when Steve Ballmer acknowledged in Sep. 2002 that Linux is a serious competitor and isn't going away.

The video ends aptly with a Mahatma Gandhi quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

How sweet.

Topic: Open Source


Eileen Yu began covering the IT industry when Asynchronous Transfer Mode was still hip and e-commerce was the new buzzword. Currently a freelance blogger and content specialist based in Singapore, she has over 16 years of industry experience with various publications including ZDNet, IDG, and Singapore Press Holdings.

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  • Really liked reading your post in "Predictions Gone Wrong" (,39056810,39418900,00.htm). It pulls together some of the biggest bloomers around the science, technology and telecommunications business.. to make one, simple point: watch what you write off! Loved the way you signed off with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. History has seldom produced such a champion of the underdog as him.. even if i say that so myself (being Indian and all that, i mean). Red Hat did well to produce the video. I join you in congratulating Red Hat.. they are a company that can truly deserve to make the statement.

    All in all - very smartly written.

    Back to the point on the Predictions... Just wanted to add that the reverse is sometimes true as well. Sci-Fi / Futuristic novels in the third quarter of the last century spoke about robots and space travel and laser warfare and human flight being possible by the turn of the century. None of that, of course, came true. George Orwell's famed "1984" is probably the worst culprit.. of course, Apple (with its famous SuperBowl 1984 commercial) was the biggest corporate beneficiary from the unfulfilled prophecy.

    Great Blog - keep them going, mate!