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Michael Hart, Inventor of the E-book, Dead At 64 70

FeatherBoa writes "Michael Hart, the founder and long time driving force behind Project Gutenberg and 1971 inventor of the electronic book has died at his home in Urbana Ill, on Sept. 6th 2011. Project Gutenberg is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects, has spawned sister projects in Australia, Canada, Germany and other locations to transcribe public domain literature and make it available via the Internet."
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Michael Hart, Inventor of the E-book, Dead At 64

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  • by coldmist ( 154493 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @04:07AM (#37337244) Homepage

    Let me just say that I admire the man for all that he has done. For his vision, and efforts to push us all to bigger and better things.

    Project Gutenberg will be a lasting legacy.

    • by MYakus ( 1625537 )

      Seconded! I've used Gutenberg since I first heard about it as an FTP site (mid-80's?). I owe this man many thanks for the hours spent reading Dumas, Homer, Grant, Lincoln, and Augustine as well as others. Latin, German, and French teachers used his site so their kids could get access to literature for their studies. Hart made that possible. Hart was a brilliant man that made his ideas come to reality.

      Thanks for everything.

    • Amazon should close down its servers for 1 hour in memoriam.
  • by angry tapir ( 1463043 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @04:08AM (#37337248) Homepage
    I wrote a short obituary for him [].
    • Just for the record, what did he die of?



      • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

        Just for the record, what did he die of?

        TFA doesn't say. Although this may be informative:

        Frugal to a fault, Michael glided through life with many possessions and friends, but very few expenses. He used home remedies rather than seeing doctors.

        I suspect we may never know how he died, but I'm guessing the lack of seeing qualified medical professionals may have contributed to him dying at 64.

        Don't get me wrong; Project Gutenberg is an inspired idea. I can also understand wanting to restrict the amount of manufactured chemicals (drugs) one takes in. But not EVER seeing a doctor? That's ridiculous. Not even "Eccentricity" is an excuse for that.

        My apologies

        • Keep going crazy over other peoples' (former) problems and we'll see if you can manage 54.

          • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

            Being upset over losing one of literature's leading lights because of a preventable issue != "going crazy over other people's problems."

            Have some perspective.

        • The chess player Bobby Fischer also died at 64 and it could be said, he committed suicide. All the news media said, he died of kidney failure, but he refused dialysis, it would be a weird coincidence if Hart also died of kidney failure.

        • My apologies to those that were friends of his, but really, didn't you care enough about him to make him go see a doctor once in awhile? The man died at SIXTY FOUR for crying out loud! How much more good work could he have done if some of his friends had just convinced him to see a doctor now and again? Geez!

          While I'd hardly qualify as a friend, I did live in the same town as he did for a while, met him only once in person, but communicated a few times over email. I had always planned to take him out to lunch, but alas, that'll never be.

          You can either be a friend and respect him and his wishes, or you can just walk all over him and force him to do what your world view thinks is right. You can't be a friend if you do that.

          That's not to say an occasional suggestion can't hurt.

          I always find it sad that people don'

      • Just discovered via Wikipedia, he died of a heart attack.

  • My webbrowser (Chrome, Win7) makes it looks like Urbana III. I was wondering if he had lived on a planet ...

  • Rest in Peace (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alan R Light ( 1277886 ) on Thursday September 08, 2011 @05:04AM (#37337482)

    I volunteered with Project Gutenberg for about 5 years in the1990s. Michael was something of an iconoclast, and had his hand in all sorts of things. I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at his home once, and last was in contact with him two years ago.

    In a number of conversations with Michael (mostly online) our opinions on methods often clashed, but I have no doubt that he sought to serve humanity to the best of his ability, and especially to bring knowledge and opportunity to everyone in the world - without exception. He strove mightily to break down the barriers to knowledge, and to dethrone the gatekeepers who seek to prevent ordinary people from joining the company of the elite. I used to doubt his assertion that such gatekeepers exist, or that anyone would be so vile as to purposely prevent meritorious students from gaining an education - but I have come to realize that he was mostly correct. When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act came before Congress, Michael was the chief voice speaking out against it - but sadly, few people listened, or even understood why it was important. Michael's work has done a great deal to break down the barriers to knowledge that he despised, and for this we should all be thankful.

    Rest in Peace, Michael. You did well.

    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      I would dare say that without Michael Hart, Eldred v. Ashcroft [] would not have happened, and his effort to speak out against the DMCA and the Sonny Bono Copyright Act (also known as CTEA) will still have political consequences into the future. He drew a line in the sand and there are now many others who are picking up his torch to push back. That the line might have been crossed, at least people know now that territory has been lost and needs to be recaptured.

      The most amazing thing he did, ultimately, was

  • WTF, I get a 403 "automated access" reply. I have a standard, run-of-the-mill residential internet connection in Canada. And I've accessed the site in the past. Maybe the traffic has sullied their filter to the point that even localhost is treated as a bot :P

    LOL, shows my browser as "RockMelt". It's standard firefox...
    • I got the same error. I got around it by navigating to the main home page and clicking through to the article I was looking for (in this case his obituary). Now I want to check with my ISP to see if I'm being proxied (as was suggested in another reply).
  • ... has written a heartfelt and thoughtful obituary: []

    If you want to honour Michael, go and proof a page at [] - the literary equivalent of pouring one out for this internet giant.
  • More Info [].

    You know what you doing. For great justice.

  • Am I the only one that's noticed that only the AC's seem to have a problem with Hart's death/title/contributions? Funny how no one's willing to put a name to the complaint.

    That said, anyone who dies and leaves the tools to encourage people to peel themselves away from mindless entertainment and makes reading a bit more accessable, gets my respect.

    Wikipedia-Editors be damned!
  • Very sad to read this news. Michael was a visionary with a strong drive and passion. He wasn't always a fan of the latest technology, but digitizing books was always his top priority. I hope the project continues forward with renewed vigor, it is an incredibly important effort. Consider that without something like Project Gutenberg, digital libraries in the 21st century may not be free, open, and public.
  • My boss suggested that I attend a weekly "geek lunch" that a group of the older computer savvy fellows held at the U of I's Beckman Institute and met him there. I was aware of Project Gutenberg before that but hadn't used it much. Michael was a good advocate for ebooks before anyone got around to coining that particular terminology. The last few times we met, I remember him being very excited as he had samples of various new ebook readers to try out. He was testing them to see well they integrated the Guten

  • I lived next to him while I was attending U of I as an undergrad. He was a great neighbor. The house I was in had five bedrooms, all occupied by male college students. He told us we could have parties and be loud, so long as we warned him, and gave him $20 to get a burger and see a movie.

  • Why not head over to Distributed Proofreaders and do a few pages in his memory: []

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus