Most of you have probably heard about the president of a large company saying that no one would have a computer in their home.
According to Snopes, that person was Ken Olsen, then president of Digital (also known as Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC), and although it’s true, it is taken out of context. He did say he saw “no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home,” but he was addressing the concept of powerful central computers that controlled every aspect of home life: turning lights on and off, regulating temperature, choosing entertainment, monitoring food supplies and preparing meals, etc. The subject of his remark was not the personal use computer that is now so much a part of the American home, but the environment-regulating behemoth of science fiction.
I’m curious why people enjoy hearing about well-known people who made mistakes, rejected things they shouldn’t have, or made bad predictions. Do they enjoy dwelling on the mistakes of others? The people that made the mistakes probably shrugged their shoulders, realized they were wrong and embraced reality regardless of what they said previously. Besides, the next day they could have easily made another decision that made them twice what they lost.
Some things that are attributed to people are flat out wrong, like the oft-quoted saying of Bill Gates that 640K is enough for anyone. There is no record of him ever saying that, yet people continue to claim he did.
I came across a list of stupid things done by executives. It’s easy to say it was foolish when we have the luxury of hindsight, but who’s to say you would have made a better decision? It’s like giving a test to someone when you have the answers in front of you and they don’t. It seems so easy to you because you already know the answer.
Besides, how would your decisions stack up if someone were to analyze them all and pick out the wrong ones you’ve made? I’m not saying they are any better than anyone else, just that they’re not complete imbeciles. They are regular, fallible people who make mistakes along with the rest of us.
Here’s the list, with a few comments by yours truly in italics.
In the early 1970’s, a high ranking executive at Twentieth Century Fox rejected Jaws saying it would only make a mediocre movie for television. Universal Studios picked it up and of course it became one of the top grossing movies of all time.
The very next year, Universal stopped developing Star Wars at their studio and passed on the project, saying the movie audience wasn’t interested in “antiquated Buck Rogers comic books.”
So in the end, Universal made a fortune on Jaws but missed out on Star Wars and 20th Century Fox missed out on Jaws but made a fortune on Star Wars. They also fail to mention that Universal made it big with E.T., currently #4 on the top grossing films of all time.
In 1962, an Executive at Decca records rejected a musical quartet, saying that “Groups with guitars are on the way out!”
That group, by the way — The Beatles!
They may have missed out on the Beatles, but Decca released “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, which became the best-selling single of all time.
In the late 1940’s, the head of a major electronics manufacturing firm decided not to make television sets. His reasoning, “The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to a screen. The average American family hasn’t time for that. They will never sit still indoors long enough! Television will never find a wide acceptance.”
The Editor of a newspaper where Walt Disney worked as a young man told him he should forget about a career in anything creative because he totally “lacked ideas.”
Football legend, Vince Lombardi, was told by one of his earlier coaches that he should forget about a career in coaching, saying he possessed only “minimal” football knowledge and lacked motivation.
At the turn of the century, the head of the United States Patent Office resigned, and sent a letter to the President, urging him to shut down the office. The reason? He said, “there is no more reason for a patent office. Everything that can be invented has been.”
A young woman approached her employer to see if he’d like to back her in a new business endeavor. His response: “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.” That woman, of course, was Debbi Fields (Mrs. Fields).