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Topic section: Unpredicted successes
TOPIC SECTION:
Unpredicted successes
In January 2001 Philippine president Joseph Estrada was forced to resign as thousands of Filipinos
Picture: 01_10307487.jpg
An original way of spreading New Year Greetings.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 demonstrated against what they saw as his corrupt government. Many commentators believe that text messages played a major role in both political agitation and organising the demonstrations, a vivid illustration that text messaging really can change the world.

Yet no-one predicted that text messaging would take off in the way it has. While text 

Many commentators believe that text messages played a major role in both political agitation and organising the demonstrations

messaging had initially been included as an extra feature on second-generation mobile phones, over 100 million text messages were sent on New Year's Day 2003 in the UK alone. However, having once missed the boat, manufacturers were quick to make up for their previous lack of far-sightedness and provided phones with features to make texting easier, such as predictive texting.

The use of mobile phones to oust a Philippine president was also unpredicted, because no-one thought that mobiles would catch on so quickly among ordinary people outside the richer countries. Anyone who has visited
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The latest fashion statement - mobile phone.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 less-developed countries such as the Philippines will have noticed the proliferation of mobile phones, especially in urban areas. Not just the playthings of rich segments of the population, mobiles seem truly to have taken over. Indeed, some countries such as Rwanda and Cambodia already have more mobile phones than fixed lines.

A similar thing happened in the early days of the phone in the United States. Conventional wisdom told manufacturers that new technologies such as the phone would spread from the more developed, urban areas of the country, to the more backward rural areas. No doubt this predicted pattern of development also suited the phone companies – after all, it’s easier to connect people living in densely-populated inner cities than in the countryside. However, much to the companies’ surprise, the phone was very rapidly taken up by farmers in technologically backward rural areas. Improvising their own systems, they used the phone to combat loneliness
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How it all began -The early telephone.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
 and help with their businesses. Whereas in rural areas people worked hard to demand and get a telephone, in urban areas the manufacturers had to work hard to ‘invent’ uses for the phone, and convince people to use them.

As we have seen, throughout time, and across the world, consumers often behave in ways that manufacturers could not have predicted.

 
 
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Topic section: Unpredicted failures
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Manufacturers often think they have created an improved version of the telephone that will sell like hot cakes. More often than not, their breakthrough fails to sell. Sometimes an innovation is a success in one place and a failure elsewhere.  > more

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Topic section: Unpredicted consequences
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The telephone has affected our everyday lives in many ways. It has changed how we shop, how we write English and even how we use our thumbs. However hard we try to predict its consequences, we cannot completely forecast the impact of the telephone on our lives.  > more
 
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