Saturday, 10 September 2016

"Oops, I've Made Another Terrible Error!"

Mistakes made under the spotlight (part 2).

Previously on the Charles Fudgemuffin blog I've taken a look at high profile mistakes made in the world of movies, books, music and sport.  Here are a few more examples of notable mistakes throughout history, this time from the world of science and technology, starting with an example which highlights the importance of being ambitious and dreaming big...

Tonight's official party attendance: 5
Figures courtesy of Thomas J. Watson.

1) Dream Big

Back in 1943 Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, thought he was being extremely ambitious when he revealed he had big expansion plans for his computer company.  He famously predicted...

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

As it turned out, Thomas was slightly out with his prediction.  In fact as of today there are estimated to be more than two billion computers in use in the world!  Given his inaccuracy with figures, I wonder if Thomas would like to lend me a fiver?

It just goes to show how reality can sometimes massively exceed expectations, so if you're going to dream, then you might as well dream big.

2) Lightweight Computers

It's an abitious goal, but in the future, new lightweight
computers may weigh even less than this steam engine!
Thomas J. Watson isn't the only person to make a computer related prediction which later proved to be somewhat foolish.  In 1949 Popular Mechanics Magazine reported...

"Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons."

A computer weighing only 1.5 tons!  Imagine that!  In actual fact, at the time of writing the world's lightest laptop weighs around 1.72 pounds, roughly equivalent to 0.00086 tons, which is almost 1/2,000 of the weight that Popular Mechanics Magazine predicted.

3) The world's biggest plane

"Could everyone budge up please? We need to squeeze ten passengers on."
Back in 1933, Boeing successfully introduced the Boeing 247, a twin engine plane that held ten passengers.  Carrying ten passengers was a significant achievement at the time, prompting one Boeing engineer to proudly boast...

"There will never be a bigger plane built!"

I find it amusing that when I was in Samoa I flew on a plane between the two Samoan islands which carried only 8 passengers, and I was impressed by how small and dinky it felt.  And yet only a few decades earlier a ten seater plane was seen as a gargantuan monster of an aeroplane!

For the record, in actual fact aeroplanes/airplanes have slightly surpassed the ten passenger limit set by the Boeing 247, and today the Airbus A380 can carry up to 853 passengers, an increase of 843 passengers over the Boeing 247.

4) Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners!

A regular vacuum cleaner powered by electricity,
some of which may have been produced by a nuclear power station.
Yes, you read that correctly!  Back in 1955, Alex Lewyt made the prediction...

"Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years."

This was an era when atomic power was the next big thing, and Alex was president of the Lewyt Vacuum Cleaner Company, so his opinion would have carried some weight at the time.  However, despite the then popularity of nuclear power, I can't quite grasp why anyone felt that vacuum cleaners needed a level of suction which required a nuclear power source.  Perhaps, if you were planning on sucking up the floorboards of your house?

For the record, the prediction proved to be inaccurate, and we are yet to see nuclear powered vacuum cleaners widely available in everyday homes.

"No more spam."
Bad news for Monty Python fans.

5) An End To Spam

Finally, it's not just in decades gone by when people have been embarassed by misjudged predictions about the future.  As recently as 2004 Bill Gates also got things spectacularly wrong when he promised...

"Two years from now, spam will be solved."

In fact in 2006, 12.4 billion spam emails were sent every day, so Bill's prediciton wasn't quite accurate.

You can find more foolish predictions and unfortunate errors at the links below:
"Oops, I've Made A Terrible Error!" (Part 1)
If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

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About The Author

The 'How To Save The World' books
by Charles Fudgemuffin
Charles Fudgemuffin is the author of the alien comedy 'How To Save The World' books which are available for Kindle from Amazon.  The first book in the series is available from the following link:
How To Save The World: An Alien Comedy

As with all Kindle books, you can also download a free sample of the first few chapters.

Please note, the 'How To Save The World' books contain material suitable for ages 18+ and are not recommended for prudes or squares.