Posts Tagged ‘digital library history’

The Legacy of Michael S. Hart

September 16th, 2011

ship sinking into a whirlpool near the Lone Tower

Sometimes people are important to you not for who they are, but for what they do. Michael S. Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, is one such person. While I never met him, Michael’s work has definitely impacted my life: The last book I finished1, like most of my fiction reading over the past 3 years, was a public domain ebook. I love the illustrations.

KENBAK-1 from 1971

The first personal computer: KENBAK-1 (1971)

In 1971, the idea of pleasure reading on screens must have been novel. The personal computer had just been invented; a KENBAK-1 would set you back $750 — equivalent to $4200 in 2011 dollars2.

Xerox Sigma V-SDS mainframe

Xerox Sigma V-SDS mainframe

Project Gutenberg’s first text — the U.S. Declaration of Independence — was keyed into a mainframe, about one month after Unix was first released34. That mainframe, a Xerox Sigma V, was one of the first 15 computers on the Internet (well, technically, ARPANET)5. Project Gutenberg is an echo of the generosity of some UIUC sysadmins: The first digital library began a gift back to the world in appreciation of access to that computer.

Thanks, Michael.

Originally via @muttinmall

  1. The Book of Dragons, by Edith Nesbit: highly recommended, especially if you like silly explanations or fairy tales with morals. []
  2. CPI Inflation Calculator []
  3. Computer history timeline 1960-1980 []
  4. Project Gutenberg Digital Library Seeks To Spur Literacy:
    Library hopes to offer 1 million electronic books in 100 languages
    , 2007-07-20, Jeffrey Thomas []
  5. Amazingly, this predated NCSA. You can see the building–Thomas Siebel–hosting the node thanks to a UIUC Communication Technology and Society class assignment []

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing, information ecosystem, library and information science | Comments (0)