10 World-Changing Inventions People Thought Were Useless

9. The Telephone

Dowton Abbey telephone
ITV
"The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys," Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, 1874

Again with the British snobbery, Preece was adamant that the brand new invention of the telephone presented no risk to the telegrams in which his company dealt.

Before him, however there were even those who thought the technology, not only worthless, but impossible.

"Well informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value."The Boston Post, 1865

The ability to communicate instantly, with anyone anywhere in the world, however, turned out to be a pretty appealing prospect to the wider population that didn't run a telegrams company (fancy that), and now it is thought that at least 75% of the world's population have access to a mobile phone, let alone a landline. That's 5,250,000,000 impossible voices transmitted over impossible wires.

"What use could this company make of an electrical toy?"William Orton, Western Union president, in response to an offer to buy Alexander Graham Bell's telephone company for $100,000
 
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