pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Sep 19 01:16:29 EDT 2001
Subject: Etext Originator
from TOURBUS - 18 Sep 01 <http://www.TOURBUS.com>
Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when founder Michael Hart was given
an unexpected gift. As a joke, the computer operators at the
Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois gave him a
computer account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it. Read on
to find out how Hart's "fortune" turned into one of the Net's
After receiving this unexpected gift, Michael thought for an hour or
so and announced that the greatest value created by computers would
not be computing, but rather the storage and retrieval of the
information that was stored in our libraries. And he also devised a
clever plan to repay his hundred-million dollar "debt".
Hart proceeded to type in the "Declaration of Independence", and
Project Gutenberg was born. Today there over two thousand public
domain works available through Project Gutenberg, stored in three
sections of the PG Library as described below:
* Light Literature; such as Alice in Wonderland, Through the
Looking Glass, Peter Pan, Aesop's Fables, etc.
* Heavy Literature; such as the Bible or other religious
documents, Shakespeare, Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, etc.
* References; such as Roget's Thesaurus, almanacs, and a set
of encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.
Hart's philosophy was that anything entered into a computer can be
reproduced indefinitely. And theoretically, anyone in the world can
have a copy of a book that has been entered into a computer.
In an effort to make the Project Gutenberg "Etexts" as widely usable
as possible, they are available in ASCII, or plain text format.
Thus, people with most any type of computer - DOS, Apple, Atari,
homebrew Z80s, Mac, UNIX or mainframe can read the Etexts without any
special software. Here's a sample of one book that caught my eye while
"It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had
been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking
rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible
speed. The women and children were being lined up awaiting their
turn. Some still clung desperately to husbands and fathers;
others clutched their children closely to their breasts. One girl
stood alone, slightly apart from the rest. She was quite young,
not more than eighteen. She did not seem afraid, and her grave,
steadfast eyes looked straight ahead."
-- From the opening of Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie
Hart Speaks on Accessibility
"The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is to make information, books and
other materials available to the general public in forms a vast
majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use,
quote, and search.
Alice in Wonderland, the Bible, Shakespeare, the Koran and many others
will be with us as long as civilization... an operating system, a
program, a markup system... will not."
Project Gutenberg's team of volunteers is close to producing their
2500th Etext, and they are working toward a goal of having 3,333
Etexts online by the end of 2001. Some of their efforts have been
hampered though, by legislation that has extended copyrights in
several countries from 50 to 70 years after the author's death. You
can read more about copyright issues on the PG site.
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer organization funded by private
donations and a grant from Carnegie Mellon University. If you'd like
to help in the work of preserving and distributing public domain
literature (and doing something personal to make the Internet a richer
resource) you can get involved in a variety of ways.
Volunteers are needed to locate and scan texts, do editing,
proofreading and other jobs. And since the funds to continue this
work are always scarce, monetary donations are always welcome. If you
would care to make a donation, no matter how small, to Project
Gutenberg please mail it to:
Post Office Box 2782
Champaign, IL 61825
Checks should be made out to "Project Gutenberg/CMU" and are tax
deductible to the maximum allowable by law.
Do something nice for your brain - unplug the television tonight and
pay a visit to Project Gutenberg, then search for your favorite
classic by author or title and curl up with a nice electronic book.
You can even purchase a CD containing ALL the Gutenberg etexts if you
If you can't reach the Gutenberg site, it could be due to the outbreak
of a new computer worm/virus called Nimda. Should you be afraid? Only
if you haven't read my TOURBUS articles "Virus Prevention 101" and
"Virus Prevention 102" -- see the Tourbus archives.
Have a good read, I'll see you next time! Do feel free to pass along
any issue of Tourbus, and tell your friends to visit the Tourbus
website to see the archives, send a free greeting card, or play Warp
the Busdriver (and his poor dog)! --Bob Rankin
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