“Don’t Listen to Him”!

I suppose that there always have been short-sighted people who lack any vision for progress and future innovations and will try to thwart and discourage somebody’s often revolutionary ideas. What follows is a chronological list of some of these historical “pooh-pooh naysayers,” as I like to call them.

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”–Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”–Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.

“The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”–Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

“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 Americans have the need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”–Sir William Preece, chief engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”–Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

“It’s good enough for our transatlantic friends…but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.”–British Parliamentary Committee, referring to Edison’s light bulb in 1898.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”–Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”–Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1914.

“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.

“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 1922.

“Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient, and cowards in the face of danger. They are, therefore, unfit for combat.”–U.S. Army War College Study, 1925. [Maybe we just are not all that gung-ho about committing mass murder!]

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”–Harry Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”–Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

““Walt, I predict that this Snow White idea of yours is going to be the biggest disaster ever. Nobody will want to see it, and it will be the financial ruination of the Studio.”–His brother and studio manager, Roy Disney, 1934. [During production he and others referred to it as “Disney’s Folly.” The film grossed 8 million dollars in its first year, the equivalent of 100 million today.]

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.”–Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in Gone With The Wind, 1938.

“We should cut ‘Over the Rainbow’. It’s not at all important to the plot and besides, it slows the action down in the film. It‘s also undignified for a star such as Judy Garland to be singing a sappy song in a cornfield.”–The producers and editors of The Wizard of Oz, 1939. [Even if that were true, so what? It won the Oscar for Best Song, by the way.]

“I sat cringing before MGM’s Technicolor production…which displays no trace of imagination, good taste, or ingenuity…I say it‘s a stinkeroo.”–Film critic Russell Maloney in The New Yorker, reviewing The Wizard of Oz.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”–Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“Television won’t last because people will tire staring at a plywood box.”–Movie mogul Darryl Zanuck, 1946.

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

““It’ll be gone by June.”–An editor of Show Biz magazine reporting on the future of the rock ‘n’ roll genre, 1955.

“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked 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.

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
–Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training.”–Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the “unsolvable” problem by inventing Nautilus, 1967.

“But…what is it good for?”–Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

“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, 1968.

“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, 1973. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.

“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t gotten through college yet.'”–Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer, 1976.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
–Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

“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 Debbie Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies, 1977.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”–Bill Gates, 1981 [So, why didn’t you stop there, Bill?]

Did you know that J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book, H.P. and the Philosopher’s Stone, was rejected by 12 publishing firms before it was finally given the green light by Bloomsbury? I can only imagine some of the reasons for their disinterest. “Who wants to read about a boy wizard?” “Nobody reads fantasy fiction anymore.” “Rowling is a woman. I don‘t want to take the chance on a woman writer.” I’ll bet all those publishers really regret their decision now! That was 1995. When the seventh and last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in July 2007, it sold 11 million copies the first day in just the U.K. and U.S. alone.

Some pooh-pooh naysayers also once told Fred Astaire and Debbie Allen that they couldn’t dance, and they told Bette Davis and Lucille Ball that they couldn’t act. Sophia Loren was told that she could never be a movie star, because “your nose is too long, your mouth is too big, and you can’t act.” The director of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris told Julia Child that she had no aptitude whatsoever for cooking, one of Jack Lemmon’s deans at Harvard told him that he would never amount to anything in his life, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for incompetence, and Steven Spielberg was rejected from attending USC Film School!

I have been subject to this kind of negativity in my life and career as well, people telling me what I shouldn‘t be doing or what they think I am not capable of. While an oboe major at Indiana University, for example, when it was determined that after just three years of playing the instrument, so I was not yet a virtuoso and never intended to be, one of the music professors there, a violist (so why was he even on my jury?), and who did not know me at all, actually told me that I would never make it as a serious musician and that I should get out of music altogether. How dare he! The oboe isn’t the only thing in music to do.

It‘s good that I and the rest of all these previously-mentioned talented and enterprising visionaries didn‘t listen to those “dream squelchers” and went on to pursue our various callings anyway. As a result, I have enjoyed a long and successful career as a professional musician (including playing solo oboe and in various ensembles), the end of 2020 marking 68 years in the business! So, fuck you, Dr. Winold, who is most likely dead by now anyway! I might have suggested to him at the time that teachers are supposed to encourage students, not discourage them. So why doesn’t he get out of teaching altogether, since he sucks at it?!

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