There were two thousand auto companies: the most important invention, probably, of the first half of the twentieth century. It had an enormous impact on people’s lives. If you had seen at the time of the first cars how this country would develop in connection with autos, you would have said, “This is the place I must be”. But of the two thousand companies, as of a few years ago, only three car companies survived. And, at one time or another, all three were selling for less than book value, which is the amount of money that had been put into the companies and left there. So auto companies had an enormous impact on America, but in the opposite direction on investors.
Now, sometimes it’s much easier to figure out the losers. And of course, the thing you should have been doing was shorting horses. Buffett showed following slide:
1900 – 17 million
1998 – 5 million
And said, "Frankly, I am kind of disappointed that the Buffett family was not shorting horses throughout this entire period. There are always losers."
During my undergraduate curriculum of computer science and engineering, I used 6 programming languages: Fortran, Cobol, Pascal, C, Lisp and C++. Depending upon whom you talked to, you would have received a different response as to which language might be the winner. However, there was a consensus on which language is going to be the loser. It was: Cobol. Looking at the scenario two decades later, if we see return on investment on the technology, Cobol might very well be the winner.