In hindsight: Unbelievable tech industry predictions and quotes

The computing industry is fuelled by prediction and gossip. Before the patent became the carefully guarded weapon it is today, chip engineers from competing companies would often share an astounding amount of information on an informal basis -- not just with each other, but with the wider consumer audience as well.

Three years before co-founding Intel and whilst working as Fairchild Semiconductors head of R&D, Gordon E. Moore authored an article “Cramming More Components Onto Integrated Circuits” which appeared in the April 19, 1965 edition of Electronics Magazine. In that paper Moore predicted that the transistor count for a minimum component cost would double every year for at least a decade based upon Fairchild’s previous five years of IC design.

So accurate a forecast -- and self-fulfilling prophecy -- Moore and Intel became prime movers in the industry and his prediction is enshrined as “Moore’s law”. Within an industry known as much for its predictive pronouncements and verbal sparring as its actual innovation, low bandwidth morality, and elastic attitude towards intellectual property rights, many have felt compelled to follow Gordon Moore in bringing their judgements and observations into the public eye… with varying degrees of success.

Read: In Hindsight... Infamous Tech Industry Predictions and Quotations

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16 Comments

Fun read, especially for those of us around in the 80s or 90s.


“Above all, what we'll never see fly is the scanner / printer / fax / copier combo”
- John C. Dvorak

Having known John in the 90s, it would be easier to find predictions he made that actually came true. I know many people that made a living from investing in anything Dvorak claimed was crap.

I was always amazed how connected and somewhat well regarded he was in the technology world and yet how little he actually understood about technology.

I was reading through the quotes and I couldn't help but notice how many times his name came up, and how many times he was way off the mark. Incredible.

When presented with an opportunity in 1986 to license Guide, the first commercially available hypertext browser, Gates threw the proposal across the table and asked "Who would ever want a browser"? Thanks to Gates' insight, Microsoft are still playing catch up.

Spicoli said,
It's amazing how much stuff is fabricated and attributed to Gates. It's like the "no one will need more than 640K" thing that never happened.

Ever read "Business at the Speed of Thought" and "Business at the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Age?" There is an interesting turnaround...

In five years we're going to sit around and laugh that we even had operating system wars; there's just going to be Linux. We're going to take over” - Trae McCombs, site manager Linux.com [Maximum Linux, October 1999]

HA!

The only part that was wrong was his slamming the lack of a keyboard. The original iPhone priced at $500+ was not selling millions of units. Once they launched the iPhone 3G at $199 subsidized and introduced the App Store, iPhone sales really took off. That was way after what Ballmer said though.

So Ballmer wasn't really as far off the mark as you make it out to be. It's just that MS didn't have a product to compete at the time and it took them a long time to get Windows Phone out to the market.

Some of these quotes still fly IMO.

Andrew Grove (Intel CEO and President) predicts that by 2011, Intel CPUs will integrate one billion transistors, operate at 10 GHz and be capable of 100,000 MIPS (millions of instructions per second).

The accuracy of this statement is quite astounding given that he made the prediction was made 15 years before 2011. It would have been hard to see that clock speeds would come down while MIPS would go up. Otherwise this prediction was quite accurate.

“In the future, the primary means of communication with computers will be through speech, not through graphics”

Okay, so the time scale was a too optimistic, but he had the right idea. We are moving towards speech interfaces (see: Xbox one, Android, iOS). It's innacurate to say that GUIs will go away though, like, ever.

“I can see the day when Apple won't be in the personal computer business" and "The personal computer business as we have known it is not very attractive for the Nineties”

Okay, so the "not in the PC business" thing didn't happen, but Apple's focus is moving away from the PC (as we know it) towards mobile computing.

I thought the same thing regarding the Intel quote. We would probably have seen that high of a frequency if Intel didn't redesign their architecture. Pentium 4 was all about clock speed.

The Apple prediction would have come true if Microsoft hadn't bailed out Apple.

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