He was the Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (c. 1398; February 3, 1468) of the 20th century.
Gutenberg invented mechanical movable type printing started the Printing Revolution and is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period.
Michael Hart (March 8, 1947; September 6, 2011) invented the eBook and began the modern information revolution.
A student at University of Illinois, Hart was given a computer account on July 4, 1971. Wondering what he could do with it, unlike other users of the time who used the gestating internet for data distribution, Hart chose to use his computer time for information distribution.
Typing in the American Declaration of Independence, he discovered that it would crash the system if he was to email it to everyone on the ‘net. As an alternative he made the text available for people to download instead.
This was the beginning of what he was to call Project Gutenberg which became his lifelong work. He continued by adding such classics as the Bible and the works of Homer, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain. As of 1987 he had typed in a total of 313 books in this fashion.
In 1987 he was able to set up a series of “mirror sites” and mailing lists and so was able to recruit help in the work. Now, in the week of his death, the Project has over 36,000 books available for free downloading. All are out of copyright.
From his unformatted style of creating eBooks, the Kindle, Nook and other modern eBook readers developed their proprietary formats and, as the 15th century Gutenberg was the father of the printed book so the 20th century Hart was the father of the electronic book.
While others were sharing data across the newly networked computers of 1971, Hart had a vision which not only led to his vast collection of eBooks but also paved the way for blogging sites like this.
Vale, Michael Hart, and thank you..