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Project Gutenberg was started by Michael Hart in 1971. Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, obtained access to a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer in the university's Materials Research Lab. Through friendly operators, he received an account with a virtually unlimited amount of computer time; its value at that time has since been variously estimated at $100,000 or $100,000,000.<ref name="GP_history">Michael Hart (August 1992). Gutenberg:The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg. Retrieved on 2006-12-05.</ref> Hart has said he wanted to "give back" this gift by doing something that could be considered to be of great value.
This particular computer was one of the 15 nodes on the computer network that would become the Internet. Hart believed that computers would one day be accessible to the general public and decided to make works of literature available in electronic form for free. He used a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence in his backpack, and this became the first Project Gutenberg e-text. He named the project for Johannes Gutenberg, the fifteenth century German printer who propelled the movable type printing press revolution.
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Pietro Di Miceli, an Italian volunteer, developed and administered the first Project Gutenberg website and started the development of the Project online Catalog. In his ten years in this role (1994–2004), the Project web pages won a number of awards, often being featured in "best of the Web" listings, and contributing to the Project popularity.<ref>Gutenberg:Credit. Retrieved on 2006-12-05.</ref>
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