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Dumb Fad or World-Changing Inventions

Automobiles and Answering Machines… passing fads?

Vox took a look at a selection of world-changing inventions that were called-out as dumb fads.

1890 – Bicycles: The popularity of the wheel is doomed
The Washington Post called bicycling a hot fad for fancy ladies and not just for the “bleached-haired, music-hall type” anymore

1902 – Automobiles: The prices will never be sufficiently low

The New York Times called the automobile impractical — and they had a few good reasons why. In the wake of the bike fad of the 1890s, reporters and analysts were wary of the “next big thing” in transportation. As one critic put it: Automobiling is following the history of cycling with such remarkable closeness in almost every detail, both as a sport and an industry, that the question is often asked if the present period of expansion will be followed by a collapse as complete and as disastrous as was that of the cycling boom of a few short years ago.

1928 – Talkies: Talking doesn’t belong in pictures

Joseph Schenck, President of United Artists, seemed confident about one thing: talking pictures were a fad.He told The New York Times that “talking doesn’t belong in pictures.” Though he conceded that sound effects could be useful, he felt that dialogue was overrated. “I don’t think people will want talking pictures long,” he said, and he wasn’t alone.

1973 – Answering machines: In the beginning, it was pure yuppie

A story about the bourgeoning voicemail phenomenon noted that answering machines weren’t even allowed in most homes. Robert Howard, a spokesman for the New York Telephone Company, claimed that illegally installed machines posed a hazard to line repairmen. Since the 1940s, most companies had banned them, and AT&T said “there is no need for the device.”

1985 – Laptops: Was the laptop dream an illusion?

The New York Times reported on the tragic demise of a once promising trend — laptops, the newspaper said, were on their way out. From now on, airplane tray tables would hold beers and cocktails instead of computers.The Times doubted the potential of laptop technology, and with good reason: they were heavy, pricey, and had poor battery life, all of which made it hard to imagine them becoming mainstream.

Phil Edwards – Vox

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