Alexander Graham Bell
"If I can get a mechanism which will make a current of electricity vary in its intensity, as the air varies in density when a sound is passing through it, I can telegraph any sound, even the sound of speech."
To which Elisha Gray, who invented the telephone independently and filed his patent application a few hours after Bell:
"The talking telegraph is a beautiful thing from a scientific point of view. . . but if you look at it in a business light, it is of no importance."
Bell offered his patent to Western Union for $100,000. Here's what they had to say (1876) in response:
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
In 1907, when there were approximately 6,000,000 telephones total in the entire United States, buying a phone was a lot like buying a PC as this ad from the Sears Catalog of the day shows.