Thursday, September 08, 2011

Michael S. Hart 1947-2011

from Yahoo News:

Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg and a pioneer in formatting print material for online use, passed away Tuesday at his home in Urbana, Illinois. A self-described "unreasonable" thinker, according to his obituary at Project Gutenberg, Hart invented the ebook in 1971.

I've had a post sitting in the drafts folder for some time, tentatively titled "Lit Blogging", which included the following article link:

Elizabeth Weingarten, Slate:"Fantastic Typing Machines"
A gallery of old typewriters that look more like sewing machines, phonographs, and torture devices.

This was published September 7th, the same day Michael Hart's obit appeared in the LA Times, and I suppose you could construe that as an irony. However it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Hart also liked typewriters and maybe even missed them. As far as I can see e-books are no more a threat to books than automobiles were to horses, although I wonder if e-books and the digitization of text will render access to three dimensional books(that you can't imperceptibly edit after the fact, a la 1984) a luxury item, per market forces. Maybe access to an undiluted historical record will also become a luxury good, like horses are in some places.

Having said that, I also imagine Hart recognized this was a genie that had to be let out of the bottle, and that corporatism and corrupt government practices were the enemy, not technology per se. For example he was against the expansion of copyright laws and the increasing commercialization of the commons, which of course are interlinked.

see also
Wired, "What kind of man wants to put the 10,000 most important books online by 2002 and make them available for free?" (I'm not sure when this article was published, circa 1997. It refers to the pending Digital Millenium Copyright Act(DMCA), which of course became law the following year.)

via Maude Newton.

cross-posted at Dead Horse.