e-Book Founder Michael S. Hart Dies At 64

In 1971, computer scientist Michael S. Hart typed the text of the Declaration of Independence and made it available on a computer network so others could read it as well. It was an electronic document, and he created what you might think of as the prototypical e-book. Before his death this week at the age of 64, Hart founded Project Gutenberg, which provides free digital literature, to spread literacy.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

Our last word in business is a farewell to a man who changed the way we read.

Forty years ago, a young computer scientist named Michael S. Hart came back from watching the 4th of July fireworks near the University of Illinois in Urbana. He was playing around with one of the school's new computers. Hart described the moment to NPR's SCIENCE FRIDAY.

(Soundbite of interview)

Mr. MICHAEL S. HART (Founder, Project Gutenberg): And as luck would have it, on the way over, I had picked up something to eat and they had put the Declaration of Independence in my backpack with my munchies. And when that fell out, the light literally went on over my head, and I knew what I had to do.

GREENE: What Hart did was typed the text of the Declaration of Independence and make it available on the network so that other people could read it on their computers, as well. It was an electronic document, and on that Independence Day in 1971, he created what you might think of as the prototypical e-book.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And before his death this week at the age of 64, Hart went on to found Project Gutenberg, which provides free digital literature, to spread literacy.

That's the business news on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

GREENE: And I'm David Greene.

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