They say “hindsight is 20/20.” As with some clichés, this one couldn’t be more true when it comes to some people’s attitude towards change in the past, especially when it comes to something made easier, better, or faster. Well, here are ten more modern conveniences that most of us take for granted today, that we couldn’t live, work, or play without. When first proposed, some people must have never gotten the memo on some of these since they’re such no-brainers in hindsight, while others are just flukes that had to wait for technology to catch up. However, all the attitudes toward them are outrageous at best.
Please keep reading to find out just how amazing and outlandish the public’s attitude can be today—and was in the past—toward ten more of the most successful and important ideas, inventions, and innovations we still use today.
10 We Only Needed 5 Computers…on the Planet
Yesterday it was said nobody wanted them; today, we can’t live without them. And tomorrow, we might watch them build themselves. But in 1943, Thomas Watson, the one-and-only chairman of the giant computer magnate IBM, made the very unlikely and even more unprophetic statement, “I think there’s a world market for maybe five computers.” (Silence.) Maybe? Five? Really now?
That thing that you, the reader, are staring at. Yeah, that lightning-fast extension of your gray matter has already altered the history of humankind in more ways than the discovery of fire could ever have. Yet, the guy that chaired IBM at one time said that we could use “maybe” five? Well, if someone reading this added up all the computers they own now, they’d be absolutely amazed since they’d have to count their desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, smart TVs, game systems, cars, calculators, microwaves, clocks, MP3 players, etc. You name it; it has a computer in it. So sorry, Tom, but you were just a tad low. No memo for you today.
9 Trains Would Rip Women’s Uteruses Out
Some earlier opponents of the fire-breathing, steam-hissing, smoke-belching monstrosities they called locomotives (“loco” being the operative word since they were kind of crazy-looking) were apparently quite scared of those modern contraptions. It seems they were of the opinion that the female physique couldn’t withstand lightning speeds of up to fifty miles per hour. In fact, they feared that the women’s uteruses would be ripped bloodily from their bodies by the sheer acceleration and raw power of the fanatical beasts. Apparently, these people had never seen the beast in action.
This could be fear of the unknown, or better phrased, fear of the “new-fangled,” a phenomenon brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the rapid advancement in technology. What was not understood was often feared, especially if it seemed it might injure women and children. So how did the scientists of that time explain the mindboggling feats of engineering that early peoples accomplished? Nothing concrete; they mostly only gave rudimentary excuses for how they did these things.
So what were people to think when they first saw this great machine, a toxic, fire-breathing, steam-hissing, smoke-belching monstrosity? Not being sure, they believed the worst. It’s no wonder people are sometimes leery of things, right?
8 Plato Didn’t Approve of Writing or Books
During the Classical period in Ancient Greece—the 5th and 4th centuries BC—was born the great and famous Athenian philosopher Plato. He is considered to be one of the world’s most influential people. Plato started the Academy, the first institution of higher learning known in the Western world, and the Platonist School of Thought. Yet, his views on writing and books are downright weird.
This is because, well, to put it bluntly, he bashes the invention of writing “literally” in writing, and no, please do not excuse the pun because it was intended. Plato wrote a dialogue he had between himself, Socrates, and an interlocutor, or literary middleman, named Phaedrus, whom the work is named after. In this dialogue, he attacks the invention of writing and the books it’s written in. It seems as though he felt that if people simply just wrote everything down and had books, they’d just forget everything they’d written and read and continuously need to refer back to the books to refresh their memories. Speaking of the invention of writing, Plato said, “What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder.”
Well, yes, isn’t that the general principle here, Plato? Oh, and Plato, we mustn’t forget learning, since books can travel, allowing others to read them. But in all fairness to the great man, to him, it was simple: Writing was not as effective as talking face-to-face. He implies just that when speaking on the invention of writing again, he says, “And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only the semblance of wisdom, for by telling them of many things without teaching them, you will make them seem to know much while for the most part, they know nothing.” An old Chinese proverb goes, “Tell me, and I’ll forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me, and I’ll understand.” Apparently, Plato got that memo instead.
7 Computers Caused Miscarriages
A common fear provoked questions such as this one in the 1980s and 1990s: “I’m pregnant and work on a computer all day, so is it true that computer monitors emit radiation and can hurt my baby?” Many people back then believed this, and maybe still do today since computers using CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors could still be in use. They mistakenly thought that these devices were emitting dangerous levels of radiation, and although CRT monitors do emit low levels of radiation, the electromagnetic field (EM) that produces it is weak.
So there is no danger whatsoever to unborn children, or to those who used them, or who may still be using them today. They can, though, cause other problems not related to their technology, such as eye strain and back pain, and can worsen varicose veins. This is why you should always give your eyes a break, and stretch out your legs occasionally throughout the day, no matter what type of display or device you use or how long ago it was made.
6 The Answering Machine Was “Worthless”
Can you believe it? At one time, AT&T, of all companies, stated publicly, “There is no need for answering machines.” It sounds like some sort of strange mantra, right? Well, the history behind the machine is sort of strange too. For starters, it was actually quasi-illegal to own them in the late 1960s and early 1970s since they could supposedly be dangerous to telephone repairmen, leading to some telephone companies banning their use altogether.
It was in the 1950s, though, when AT&T went out on a skinny limb and made their bold statement about there never being a need for answering machines in the future. However, their use was eventually permitted by the FCC in 1975, and by 1983, a good consumer model was available on the market. “Nope, we’ll pass on that. No need for voice mail.” Too bad, since AT&T may have gotten that memo on their answering machine.
5 Telephones Were “Instruments of the Devil”
The telephone took Sweden by storm. By 1885, no other country on the planet had as many phones connected as they did, so news obviously spread fast. Not everybody was so excited about the new-fangled thing, though. For many, it was met with skepticism, superstition, and even fear. It seems there was something entrancing about sounds emanating from a tiny wire, which some thought could somehow “spill out” of it if it was broken.
People were also legitimately afraid of being shocked by them, too, and for a good reason, considering the susceptibility of telephone lines to lightning strikes. Superstition took hold when people started thinking that evil spirits could enter their lives through the fragile wires. Many clergymen considered the telephone to be an instrument of the devil himself. In the real world, landowners such as farmers did not want the lines intruding on their property, and many even resorted to sabotage by destroying them. In the end, the truth was apparently phoned in, and Sweden embraced the technology with open arms along with the rest of the globe.
4 Cheeseburgers Were “Weird”
At times, don’t people just love to poke fun at the press. I sure do, and this time is no exception. In an article printed in The New York Times in October 1938, the cheeseburger was first mentioned in the paper. It was included in a list containing flippant statements about the “whimsy” of California restaurants (I hear you—it could still be true today).
The Times stuck their foot in it again nine years later, in May 1947, when they said, “At first, the combination of beef with cheese and tomatoes, which sometimes are used, may seem bizarre.” Luckily for them, their savvy journalist on the scene could see the forest despite the trees when he reported, “If you reflect a bit, you’ll understand the combination is sound gastronomically.” Today, over 80 years later, you can not only drop $300 on a gourmet cheeseburger, with your choice of gourmet cheese of course, but they now also have their own holiday. National Cheeseburger Day is celebrated every September 18th.
3 Fingernail Polish Was “Just A Fad”
The closest thing to modern fingernail polish was invented by Cutex in 1917, but it took quite a while for it to take off into the huge industry it is today. In 1926, Viola Paris, writing for Vogue magazine, said there “seemed to be doubt” about its safety and quality. A year later, The New York Times called it a “London fad.” In questioning how long the “fad” would hang around, the Atlanta Daily World, on March 31, 1932, exclaimed, “Dame fashion, whimsical and wayward as the wind,” as they ironically scoffed about its rising popularity.
Well, we’re quickly nearing a century later since that article was written, and this “whimsical and wayward fad” is doing a lot more than just hanging around. It’s now a staple in a global industry with almost ten billion dollars worth of sales in 2019. And with enormous advances in manufacturing techniques, advances in mass marketing, and countless advantages over the antiquated pastes and powders of old, it’s hard to imagine the global fingernail polish market crashing anytime soon. You’d think the media would’ve gotten the memo on this “fad,” written in pretty colors of fingernail polish.
2 The Car Was “Impractical”
Again, our friends at The New York Times are up to their old tricks again, this time calling the automobile “impractical” back in 1902. Talk about sticking your foot in it. One critic of the car likened the automobile’s future to the “demise” of the bicycle “as a sport and an industry [that] will be followed by a collapse as complete and as disastrous as was that of the cycling boom” not long before. In 1902, The Times chimed in by complaining that the price of automobiles would never be low enough to make them even as popular as bicycles were—which in their minds, they weren’t.
Early farfetched ideas such as an auto-centric transportation system and the steel highway system that the Steel Roads Committee of the Automobile Club of America was lobbying for didn’t help matters much either. These further drained the public’s confidence in the invention. So it was hard to believe that cars would ever succeed, but succeed, they did. In a short time, Henry Ford learned how to mass-produce them, and the rest is history.
1 Teddy Bears Would “Cause Race Suicide”
This one is complex, as you can imagine. But in short: In a 1907 Press Democrat editorial, an opinion was revealed in answer to the atrocious claim of a Michigan clergyman that if little girls didn’t play with dolls that looked like babies, then they’d lose their desire to become mothers. His name was Father Esper, and he pleaded with all the parents in America to encourage their girls to play with dolls and throw away their little teddy bears—forever.
The “race suicide” angle comes in from then-President Teddy Roosevelt, who inspired the invention of the teddy bear five years earlier. It was named after Teddy Roosevelt due to his hunting prowess and became extremely popular. The preacher saw the toys as a threat to the continuation of the human race, stating, “The very instincts of motherhood in a growing girl are blunted and oftentimes destroyed if the child is allowed to lavish upon an unnatural toy of this character the loving care which is so beautiful when bestowed upon a doll representing a helpless infant.” Too bad the good Father didn’t get that memo since it may have saved the hearts of some little girls who had their beloved teddy bears thrown away—forever.