A collection of quotations, supposedly accurate, but not verified by me...

Choice words from some of the worlds minds...

This is a supposedly "accurate" list of quotations, although I have not personally run them down, and you may note there are no citations actually given. A suggestion has been made that presenting this list without actually checking it out myself is an example of poor scholarship; I plead guilty to the charge, but then again, this is not a scholarly endeavor (its a humorly one, I would hope).

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."**

--Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

** New information has been supplied with respect to this quotation... stay tuned for updates as they occur... :

A very relevant citation with respect to this quotation (that is almost certainly apocryphal anyway) is: Eber Jeffery, "Nothing Left to Invent," Journal of the Patent Office Association, Vol. 22, #7, pp. 479-481, 1940. This article attempts to trace the "there's nothing left to invent" story, and leans towards attributing its origin to a statement made to Congress in 1843 by then Patent Commissioner Henry L. Ellsworth:

" 'The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.' "

He went on, however, to make a strong case for expansion of the Patent Office due to rapid scientific progress. In context it would seem he clearly did not believe that "there's nothing left to invent." Another of many examples of how important context is.... My thanks to the web page visitor who passed along the article by Jeffery.

By the way, apparently Jeffery worked on a program called the D.C. Historical Records Survey out of the Works Projects Administration....

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."

-- Bill Gates, 1981


"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

--Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949


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

--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943


"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and walked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957


"But what ... is it good for?"

--Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

(Still might be asked today...)


"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

--Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977


"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

--Western Union internal memo, 1876.


"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

--David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.


"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.


"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."

--A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)


"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."

--Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.


"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."

--Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.


"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

--1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.


"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

--Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.


"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

--Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.


If you just can't resist adding a quotation from your favorite technical pundit, try sending it to me at


and I'll consider its value for inclusion in this list (after all, I'm an expert too...).

Return to the Microelectromagnetic Devices Group home page.