Par Jeffrey Tucker, via Mises.org.
Michael S. Hart (March 8, 1947 — September 6, 2011) got it. He understood. He saw what others missed. And he was nearly alone at the time.
After he was permitted access to an Internet account at the University of Illinois as long ago as 1971, he had a mind-blowing revelation. He realized that this tool had the potential to universalize all knowledge. It could liberate ideas from their static existence on physical media and put them into a form that could be copied, copied, copied, and copied unto infinity, not just for today but forever. This was the Star Trek replicator. Amazing.
How is it possible, he wondered, that this tool exists and yet it is being kept under wraps, used only for the most superficial purposes and only by a few?
He grabbed a copy of the Declaration of Independence, typed it in, and posted it — despite being warned that this was not allowed, that he might crash the system, that there was just something wrong with letting ideas escape the small group that controlled them and allocated them to physical things only.
Bosh, he said. He would dedicate himself and his entire life to the universal distribution of anything and everything he could. Over the rest of his life, he ended up personally typing hundreds of books and distributing them.
His medium was and is called Project Gutenberg — a perfect name for his plan and agenda. Virtually alone, he saw that the Internet was the next stage. The whole history of publishing technology was about reaching ever more people with knowledge at ever-lower costs. This was the driving force at work in publishing for thousands of years, and the whole key to progress.
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