"If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR" – really Bill?

Bill Gates famously said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR”. Or did he?

It’s funny, the only reference I can find to this is on about 40 PR agencies’ websites, where they proudly exclaim that the world’s richest man thinks PR is a rather good thing. Only I can’t find any reference to the quote ever being made.

Of course, it’s possible that Bill said it on TV or in a keynote speech, but it’s a little odd that it doesn’t appear in print (if anyone can tell me where and when he said it, please let me know). It’s a great example of how the web enables the Chinese whisper effect and it becomes true just out of virtue of appearing in multiple places.

So, going with a theme, here’s my top other famous mis-quotes (although I’ve only got misquotes websites and Wikipedia’s word for it :) ).

5) “And not a lot of people know that”. – Michael Caine

This quote has been widely attributed to Michael Caine in the film ‘Alphie’. But the actual quote was ‘not many people know this…’, and the theory is that the misquote emanated from Mike Yarwood the 70′s impressionist, who used it during a skit in one of his shows.

4) “Beam me up, Scotty” – Gene Roddenberry

Captain Kirk never actually used these words on the Starship Enterprise, the closest in fact being the occasional “Beam us up, Mr Scott”.

3) “Play it again, Sam”

This is often believed to have been said by Bogart in Casablanca. In fact, he closest Bogart came to the phrase was this: “You played it for her, you can play it for me…If she can stand it, I can. Play it!” Interestingly, Ingrid Bergman’s character comes closest when she says: “Play it, Sam.”

2) “Houston, we have a problem.”

This is a misstatement of the actual communication between the Apollo 13 astronauts and Mission Control in Houston immediately after the explosion that aborted the intended mission. According to the transcript, (at 02 days, 07 hours, 55 minutes, 19 seconds), Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise starting a sentence “OK, Houston…” which was cut off by Commander Jim Lovell saying “I believe we’ve had a problem here.”, followed fifteen seconds later by Lovell’s “Houston, we’ve had a problem. We’ve had a main B bus undervolt.”

2) “Football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s much more important than that.” — Bill Shankly

The real quotation was said by Liverpool F.C. manager Bill Shankly in 1981 on a Granada Television talk show called ‘Live from Two’ hosted by Shelley Rohde, and it was “Someone said ‘football is more important than life and death to you’ and I said ‘Listen, it’s more important than that’.”

1) “640K ought to be enough for anybody” – Bill Gates

He denies it vigorously.

“The statement I made about memory space was that we need about one new bit of addressable memory every two years or so. We did our best to get the 68,000 to be used in the IBM P.C. because that would have simplified the address space issues a lot.

“The schedule was six months too late for IBM. The VAX already had a clean 32 bit address space. The history is far more complicated in terms of the x86 memory space because we supported both Extended and Enhanced memory (bank switching). At no time was the software the limiting factor — it was always the hardware going from 20 bits to 24 bits segmented (Os/2 and Windows exploited this) and finally 32 bits linear.

“I have always found it amusing that that quote is attributed to me but you can read interviews I gave about address space from the 1970’s talking about the growing need for address bits over time. 64 bits is nice but even that will run out.”

There’s lots of debate and denials online about the 640k statement. Obviously one that rankles the bespeckled billionaire.