Great piece on how most inventions are ignored at launch.
Take the Wright Brothers and flight...
Few took any interest in the matter or in the two brothers who were to become Dayton’s greatest heroes ever.
An exception was Luther Beard, managing editor of the Dayton Journal … “I used to chat with them in a friendly way and was always polite to them,” Beard would recall, “because I sort of felt sorry for them. They seemed like well-meaning, decent enough young men. Yet there they were, neglecting their business to waste their time day after day on that ridiculous flying machine.”
It wasn’t until 1908 — five years after the first flight and two years after the brothers patented their flying machine — that the press paid serious attention and the world realized how amazing the Wrights’ invention was. Not until World War II, three decades later, did the significance of the airplane become appreciated.
How about reaction to the car? Initially derided as a rich person's plaything.
In the year 1906 Woodrow Wilson, who was then president of Princeton University, said, “Nothing has spread socialistic feeling in this country more than the automobile,” and added that it offered “a picture of the arrogance of wealth.”
How about this New York Times article on the laptop?
People don’t want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so …
Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to be able to work on a computer at home. But would they really want to carry one back from the office with them? It would be much simpler to take home a few floppy disks tucked into an attache case.
Or the Internet.
The truth [is] no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on a computer. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.
Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet.
The typical path of how people respond to life-changing inventions is something like this:
- I’ve never heard of it.
- I’ve heard of it but don’t understand it.
- I understand it, but I don’t see how it’s useful.
- I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
- I use it, but it’s just a toy.
- It’s becoming more useful for me.
- I use it all the time.
- I could not imagine life without it.
- Seriously, people lived without it?
The reality we often look in the wrong places, at big corporations when in fact it's more likely two brothers working in a garage and it might take the rest of us years to discover and accept it...