Computers – The Predictions We Got Wrong

These days, we know where we are with computers. Even some of the most hardened Luddites of the past have come to terms with the fact that computers are not about to rise up and overthrow humanity, and are beginning to use them, if sparingly. But when we first started to explore an information technology world, we didn’t realise just how big it would grow.

Chances are that you or someone you know has an IBM computer. It’s a pretty big name. You might wonder how that came to be when you realize that in 1943 their then chairman assumed that the eventual market for the home computer would extend to about five homes with a computer each. He was a few million off, it’s safe to say. Some homes now have five or more.

Xerox are the world’s number one name in photocopiers. However, they were well ahead of IBM in terms of developing PCs, but shelved the idea when they decided that photocopiers would be more profitable. How different might the world be had they thought differently? We’ll never know. At one time it was assumed that computers would never have a household application because the machines were too big. Now you can fit one in your pocket.

Before computers were even really conceptualized, the commissioner of the US Office of patents told the then President McKinley that “everything that can be invented has been invented”. One can only wonder how he would react to the world we live in today.

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