He Never Said It

This is probably one of the least urgent matters that still manages to trouble me…

There is a quotation attributed to Bill Gates that goes something like, “I can’t imagine why anyone would ever need more than 640 k of memory.”  I don’t know where this quote originated.  I do know that I first saw it in the late 1980’s, at a time when 640 k was about all most computers had.

Even then the quote was obvious bullshit.  No one involved with computers is satisfied with their speed or capacity.  An end user, someone just using the computer for basics like e-mail, word processing, and other day-to-day tasks, might be content with whatever he’s got.  Programmers and systems developers are never going to be satisfied.  There is just no way that Bill Gates would have made such a statement except sarcastically.

What troubles me about this quote – and many, many others like it – is that it is so readily accepted without any sort of questioning.  I think it’s probably related to how we so easily believe urban legends.  There is something satisfying, something we just love to believe, about urban legends.  They satisfy some sort of need (or at least a craving), so we accept them without much resistance.  But they don’t help us to learn what is true.

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