Top 10 Ridiculed Inventions That Became Successful

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Top 10 Ridiculed Inventions That Became Successful

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
These mocked inventions will shock you! For this list, we'll be looking at life-changing inventions that were initially predicted to fail. Our countdown includes Automobiles, Lightbulbs, Internet, and more!
Transcript

Top 10 Mocked Inventions That Became Successful


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Mocked Inventions That Became Successful.

For this list, we’ll be looking at life-changing inventions that were initially predicted to fail.

Which of these entries are you most surprised to see on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: Automobiles

The automotive industry is, today, one of the world’s largest, but just a little over a century ago, there was a lot of skepticism about the prospects of the driving machine. In 1899, the Literary Digest, a highly influential magazine at the time, referred to automobiles as “ordinary horseless carriage[s]” that will never be used as commonly as bicycles due to their expensive cost. Just four years later, Horace Rackham, one of the first lawyers of the Ford Motor Company, was discouraged from buying stock in the company by a bank president who called automobiles “only a novelty” and “a fad.” If only they could drive a DeLorean back to the future, they’d sure eat their words.


#9: Umbrellas

Although they were initially designed to protect people from sunlight, by the early 18th century, umbrellas had become more commonly used for their waterproof function. However, in most parts of the world, it seems men had no problem at all getting wet, as umbrellas were largely seen as an accessory only used by women. In Britain, it would take the perseverance of one Jonas Hanway to get everyone else in on the umbrella craze. After returning from a trip abroad, Hanway began using an umbrella, which infuriated many coach drivers who saw big booms in business on rainy days and were scared of losing customers. Thankfully, Hanway stuck to his guns and by doing so, he successfully dismantled the gendered associations of the umbrella.

#8: Airplanes

Not everyone was impressed when the Wright Brothers broke new ground and successfully flew the first airplane in 1903. Just a couple of years later, Ferdinand Foch, a French General and the Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War, called the visionary invention “interesting scientific toys.” And while he may not have been totally wrong, seeing as planes now also make for pretty interesting toys, he completely missed the mark when he determined that they were “of no military value.” Today, airplanes are not only used commercially to transport passengers and cargo, their ability to provide aerial surveillance has proven to be of immense value to various military forces around the world.


#7: Forks

The use of the fork as a personal utensil was popularized during the Byzantine Empire, and while it became common all over the Middle East by the 10th century, its use was still sneered at in most parts of Europe. Two Byzantine princesses - Theophanu and Maria Argyropoulina - are largely credited with introducing the fork to the western world when they moved to Europe after getting married. Theophanu was met with shock after using the utensil to eat, and Argyropoulina was ridiculed by the Church for using it instead of the natural forks attached to her hands. Even with the efforts of both princesses, it would take a few hundred years before forks were adopted all around Europe.


#6: Printing Press

When the first flat-bed printing press was developed in Germany in the mid-15th century, it was seen as a threat to the work of monks, who regarded their hand-copying of the scripture as divine labor. In 1492, one such monk, Johannes Trithemius, published an essay in which he described printing as morally inferior to copying and predicted that printed materials would never last. Trithemius, a Benedictine abbot and leading scholar, argued that since printed materials used paper, they were more easily degradable and incomparable to the parchment that monks wrote their words on. Ironically, Trithemius published this essay on printed paper, as he believed the material would be far-reaching that way.


#5: Televisions

For how ubiquitous televisions are today, it’s hard to fathom that so many people were against the idea at first. After Scottish inventor John Baird put on the very first public demonstration of a television in 1925, he drew the ire of radio legend Lee de Forest, who predicted the device would be a commercial and financial disaster. Baird’s invention was also ridiculed by members of the print media, with one Daily Express newspaper editor calling him a lunatic for even thinking the idea of a television was attainable. Even twenty years down the line, it was still met with skepticism, most notably from Hollywood giant Darryl F. Zanuck, who deemed the device a mere plywood box that people would quickly get tired of.

#4: Space Travel

Just like airplanes and automobiles before it, the invention of spacecraft and humanity’s ambition to explore the universe was met with a lot of derision by critics. Making another appearance on our list is radio pioneer Lee de Forest. For as innovative as he was, de Forest clearly lacked a lot of foresight, as he proclaimed “such a man-made moon voyage will never occur regardless of all future scientific advances.” In this case, it didn’t take too long to prove de Forest wrong, as just four years after his remarks, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into space, paving the way for the prevalent exploration of space that occurs today.


#3: Lightbulbs

Prior to the invention of the lightbulb, people used candles, gas lights and oil lamps to illuminate their surroundings at night, but these were mostly unsafe options. With his development of the first commercially viable electric lightbulb, Thomas Edison provided a safer, practical and more stable option, but some people still chose to remain in the dark. Professor Henry Morton, the then President of the Stevens Institute of Technology, called the invention “a conspicuous failure,” and a British Parliamentary committee deemed it “unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.” While his detractors would eventually see the light, Edison himself proved to be a naysayer, as he frequently mocked Nikola Tesla’s invention of the Alternating Current model.

#2: Telephones

Once Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for the telephone in 1876, he shopped his device around and made a $100,000 offer to telecommunications giant, Western Union. The company’s president William Orton declined the purchase, reportedly asking “What use could this company make of an electrical toy?” Obviously, that toy became one of the most widely used devices, and just three years later, Western Union tried to develop their own telephone and were shut down with patent lawsuits from Bell. Just like its predecessor, the cellphone would also receive its own share of skepticism as it emerged in the 1980s, with an executive at Motorola proclaiming that it wouldn’t replace wired telephones. Glad to know they were all proven wrong.

#1: The Internet

It’s hard to imagine what the modern world would look like without the Internet, but back in the mid-90s, not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea. In 1995, astronomer Clifford Stoll published a Newsweek article in which he predicted that the brilliant innovation would just never work. That same year, Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, made the same prediction and declared that he’d eat his words if he was wrong, a promise he fulfilled at the International World Wide Web Conference in 1997, when he consumed a blended mixture of his article and water. It wouldn’t be the first time the Internet, or one of its components, would be belittled, as email too was initially dismissed as a viable medium of communication.
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