ENIAC , an acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, was one of the first general-purpose computers. It was gigantic.
So, after its appearance, many science fiction writers and forecasters of the technological future imagined that, in the future, computers would be increasingly intelligent, but also bigger. This hypothesis can be read in multiple novels of the genre, such as Limiting Factor , by Clifford Simak , published in 1949, where he imagines such a gigantic and colossal computer that it covers the entire planet.
The range of possibilities and new developments that a certain technological development fosters, what come to be called possible adjacencies , is largely unpredictable. That is why few bet on the success of the birth of the smartphone (and almost no one predicted how we would end up using it). The same has happened with YouTube.
Or with Wikipedia. Or with trains, cars, airplanes, computers. For example: "There is no reason for anyone to want a computer at home" uttered by Ken Olson , the founder of Digital Equipment Corp, in 1977.
In 1946, Darryl Zanuck believed that television would fail because people "would soon get bored of looking at a plywood box every night." "Americans need the phone, but we don’t. We have many messengers ”( William Preece ). This is one of the oldest predictions on the list, made in 1878 by the chief engineer of the British postal service.
Steven Johnson describes how the adjacent possible in technology works like this in the Wall Street Journal :
The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its borders expand as you explore them. Each new combination opens the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with every door you open. You start out in a room with four doors, each one leading to another room you haven’t been to yet. When you open one of those doors and walk into the room, three new doors appear, each leading to another completely new room that you couldn’t have reached from the original starting point.
In 1932, the now disappeared in Spain Diario Now asked some of the most distinguished intellectuals of the time the following: How can we imagine that the year 2000 will be? There were some hits, but most of the forecasts were perfect failures. As will be the ones that we now propose. You can see some of these failed predictions in the following video:
Timeless, in any case, seems to be the answer about how Ramón del Valle Inclán’s books would be in 2000. "If I knew what the literature of the year 2000 is going to be like, I would already be doing it."