The road to the Digital Society is paved less with good intentions and more with bad predictions. Experts and pundits are famous for getting it all wrong, so we should all be very careful whose hype we believe and whose roadmap to the future we follow.
One of the first false prophets was Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)who once said of computers that they are “completely useless – all they can do is give answers”. Was the famous abstract painter, like the Delphic oracles before him, perhaps hiding a tiny kernel of truth inside his ambiguous augury? Unlikely that Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, was being equally suttle when he expounded that “there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” IBM, incidentally, had just released the first PC, kicking off the era of true personal computing. Well, DEC soon sank beneath the waves without a trace, so there!
Thomas Watson, the legendary president of IBM, is often quoted with what would appear to be the grandfather of all blobs when he said, ““I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.“ Actually, Watson had just come back from a sales tour where he showed off the company’s latest vacuum-tube-powered adding machine that was as big as a house, and the home market for one of those babies would presumably have been extremely limited, indeed!
In hindsight, it’s really funny how often the world’s most savvy tech entrepreneur, Bill Gates, got it all wrong and still came out the richest man in the world. The founder of Microsoft, a company which owes its success to personal computers (and the operating systems running on them), went on stage at Comdex 1994 and proclaimed: „I see little commercial potential for the internet for the next 10 years!“ A year later, in his „The Road Ahead,“ Gates would make one of his most well-known blunders: He wrote that the internet was a novelty that would eventually make way to something much better, and that „today’s Internet is not the information highway I imagine, although you can think of it as the beginning of the highway.“ This, by the way, was one year after the World Wide Web had been formally launched. Weiterlesen