Books prices plummet.
Literacy rates soar.
Education rates soar.
Old structures crumble, as did the Church.
Inventor of the electronic book and my dear friend Michael S. Hart would have been 65 today. Each time I say or think that – “he would have been 65 today” – the spirit of Michael frowns at me reproachfully, “Stop being so sentimental about the past. I am the past. Focus on the future!” This is the man who, if he were given the tough choice of saving his parents, wife or children from a sinking ship, would always pick his children. They are the future.
Reverence for the future, for what we cannot yet see but can begin to make, is the very core of the philosophy from which Michael created and ran Project Gutenberg. But, he was always looking at the land beyond the horizon. After eBooks, what next? While getting taxpayer-funded research back into public hands, making DRM more fair and continuously fighting draconian copyright laws all the way from Disney to SOPA and PIPA are extremely necessary and require our immediate energy, they are merely the taking-down of roadblocks to get us back to zero. What needs done in order for us to achieve true progress? What do we create next?
As I type this, I am suddenly wrecked and sobbing my eyes out. Not just because the world lost such a man and many don’t even realize what he signified, but because Michael was my friend and loved the people of now as much as he did those of tomorrow.
A friend who convinced me I could learn anything if I let go and think about it, taught me never to apologize for my personality and high standards, was proud of my achievements as he was of his own and I could call in the middle of the night with an Aha! moment or a broken heart.
A goofball who would chide me for spending too much on retail products but would buy at garage sales ten widgets that went into a machine he didn’t own or five tubes of toothpaste on super-sale because you never know when that make will be discontinued.
A teacher who broke down the quadratic formula for me visually so I understand what it physically means to complete the square.
A technophile who didn’t like that I work for the oil and gas industry because it isn’t forward-thinking enough but relished the technologies the industry fosters and drove his and friends’ cars into the ground (and in no way near a fuel-efficient manner).
A bat out of hell. But NEVER a cynic.
The world needs people like that to effect change while bringing others to realize that that change, the constant push towards better, is what keeps people and civilizations from brain and physical death.
Speaking of death, did I ever tell you Michael wanted to live forever? I am still upset we didn’t have his brain and some cells cryogenically frozen in a DQ Mr. Misty. Then again, it’s probably for the best, for who wants to deal with The Holocene Park Of Dr. Hart? *GROAN*awful*OW* Yeah, well, Michael would have appreciated that whole setup and delivery!
Happy 65th, my friend. Thinker, do-er and ever in my heart and actions. I love and miss you, but I draw the line at having a red Mr. Misty in your honor.
Thank you, L.A. Eyewear, for donating the above image to the public domain.