Glyn Moody is re-tagging all his old posts, so subscribers to his RSS feed are getting a quick run through his blogging history. If you have any interest in Open Source or Open Science, check him out.
To whet your appetite: today he re-tagged a post pointing to a story that was posted to LWN.net in March, on Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart (wikipedia, Poynder interview, PG about: page, blog of sorts). Hart is quite a character (as seems common among visionaries), and the linked resources make interesting reading (especially Hart’s own writing). What really grabbed my attention was this detail from Glyn’s article:
Even 20 years after Project Gutenberg had begun, Hart had only created 10 ebooks..
That was my “holy crap” moment for the day. Think about it: it’s 1971, what will become the Internet consists of 15 nodes and about 100 people, Sir Tim won’t invent the Web for another 20 years, and you are given an account on one of those nodes. What will you do with it? Well, if you’re Michael Hart, you will see forward more than a quarter of a century and begin Project Gutenberg, and then for well over twenty years you will be virtually its sole proponent and defender. In 1997, PG had 313 ebooks. In 1998, collaboration with the University of Illinois PC User Group finally set the wheels in motion for the creation of the PG we all know and love today; by the end of that year there were 1600 ebooks in the collection, and today there are 20,000. The clarity of that original vision and the tenacity with which Hart made it a reality are simply breathtaking.