A hundred years ago this month, Thomas Edison—whose 164th birthday is celebrated with a Google doodle Friday—laid out a long series of predictions as to how technology would transform the world.
Writing in Cosmopolitan—then a general-interest magazine—the U.S. inventor was spot on about some things, such as speedy airplanes, but "absolutely wrong" on others, said Paul Israel, director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Among Edison's misses: that books (pictured, Dublin's Trinity College library) would be made of nickel, which Edison thought would make a cheaper, stronger, and more flexible material than paper.
"Certainly he never foresaw what's happening in terms of e-ink—digital replacing books," said Israel, also the author of Edison: A Life of Invention.
After Edison semiretired in 1908, he became the "nation's inventor philosopher," and his influence persists today, Israel said.
"While we maybe don't have quite the faith in technological progress that his generation did," he said, "Edison as a symbol of American innovation still resonates in the culture."
(Find out about a lighting breakthrough announced on the anniversary of Thomas Edison's light bulb.)