Here are a few bad decisions from the world of business that have become famous — and are downright humorous in hindsight. Some people learned from their mistakes and moved on (Bill Gates.) Some, sadly, faded into history (Decca).

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” — Bill Gates, 1981

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

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

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

“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. I hope he fired all of them.

“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.[FedEx])

“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. Wasn’t France bombed in World War Two?

“I’m just glad it will be Clark Gable falling on his face and not Gary Cooper” — Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With the Wind”

And my three favorites:

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

“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.  Alexander Bell offered the patent for the Telephone to Western-Union in 1876 for $100,000. They declined. The telephone patent has been estimated as the most valuable patent of all time. Bell’s Company, AT&T, later aquired Western-Union. Special Note — In 1971 AT&T turned down an offer to own the Internet. Oh well.

“So we went to Atari and said, “Hey we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, 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 even got through college yet.” — Apple Computer Co-Founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in he and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer. HP recovered nicely (though not quite as nicely, I suspect as they would have if they’d chanced it) but where is Atari today.

Special Mention — Couldn’t find a quote for these two, but…

In 1933 Coca-Cola declined an opportunity to buy it’s then-bankrupt and insignificant rival Pepsi – Cola

In 1999, Excite declined the opportunity to buy Google for $1 million. It’s possible that ANY quote on this from Excite would be — a-hum — unprintable. 😉

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