|Born||11 March 1952
Cambridge, United Kingdom
|Died||11 May 2001 (aged 49)
Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
|Genres||Science fiction, Comedy, Satire|
Douglas Noël Adams (11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001) was an English writer, dramatist, and musician. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television series, several stage plays, comics, a computer game, and in 2005 a feature film. Adams' contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy's Hall of Fame.
He also wrote Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988), and co-wrote The Meaning of Liff (1983), Last Chance to See (1990), and three stories for the television series Doctor Who. A posthumous collection of his work, including an unfinished novel, was published as The Salmon of Doubt in 2002.
Known to some of his fans as "Bop Ad" for his illegible signature, Adams became known as an advocate for animals and the environment, and a lover of fast cars, cameras, and the Apple Mac. He was a staunch atheist, famously imagining a sentient puddle who wakes up one morning and thinks, "This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!" The biologist Richard Dawkins dedicated his book, The God Delusion, to Adams, writing on his death that, "[s]cience has lost a friend, literature has lost a luminary, the mountain gorilla and the black rhino have lost a gallant defender."
Adams was born to Janet (née Donovan) and Christopher Douglas Adams in Cambridge, England. A sister, Susan, was born three years later, before the parents divorced in 1957. Douglas, Susan, and Janet moved in with Janet's parents, who lived in an RSPCA animal shelter in Brentwood, Essex, which reportedly exacerbated Douglas's hayfever and asthma.
Adams's father married Mary Judith Stewart (born Judith Robertson) in July 1960, a marriage that produced a half-sister, Heather; his mother's remarriage in 1964, to a veterinarian, Ron Thrift, provided two more half-siblings, Jane and James Thrift.
Adams attended Primrose Hill Primary School in Brentwood. At six, he passed the entrance exam for Brentwood School, a boarding school whose alumni include Robin Day, Jack Straw, Noel Edmunds, and David Irving. Griff Rhys Jones was a year below him, and he was in the same class as Stuckist artist Charles Thomson. He attended the prep school from 1959 to 1964, then the main school until December 1970. His form master, Frank Halford, said of him: "Hundreds of boys have passed through the school but Douglas Adams really stood out from the crowd—literally. He was unnaturally tall and in his short trousers he looked a trifle self-conscious. Yet it was his ability to write first-class stories that really made him shine." Adams was six feet tall (1.83 m) by age 12 and finally stopped growing at 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m): "[T]he form-master wouldn't say 'Meet under the clock tower,' or 'Meet under the war memorial'," he joked, "but 'Meet under Adams'." He became the only student ever to be awarded a ten out of ten by Halford for creative writing, something he remembered for the rest of his life, particularly when facing writer's block.
Some of his earliest writing was published at the school, such as a report on its photography club in The Brentwoodian in 1962, or spoof reviews in the school magazine Broadsheet, edited by Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who later became a character in The Hitchhiker's Guide. He also designed the cover of one issue of the Broadsheet, and had a letter and short story published nationally in The Eagle, the boys' comic, in 1965. On the strength of a bravura essay on religious poetry that discussed The Beatles and William Blake, he was awarded a place at St John's College, Cambridge to read English, going up in 1971, though in fact the reason he applied to Cambridge was to join the Footlights, an invitation-only student comedy club that acted as a hothouse for some of the most notable comic talent in England. He was not elected immediately as he had hoped, and started to write and perform in revues with Will Adams (no relation) and Martin Smith, forming a group called "Adams-Smith-Adams," but through sheer doggedness managed to become a member of the Footlights by 1973. Despite doing very little work—he recalled having completed three essays in three years—he graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English literature.
Some of his early work appeared on BBC2 television in 1974, in an edited version of the Footlights Revue that year. A version of the revue performed live in London's West End led to Adams being discovered by Monty Python's Graham Chapman. The two formed a brief writing partnership, and Adams earned a writing credit in one episode (episode 45: "Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party in 1982") of Monty Python for a sketch called "Patient Abuse"; he was one of only two people, outside the original Python members to get a writing credit (the other being Neil Innes). In the sketch, a man who had been stabbed by a nurse arrives at his doctor's office bleeding from the stomach. The doctor asks him to fill out numerous senseless forms before he will administer treatment (a joke later incorporated into the Vogons' obsession with paperwork). Adams also contributed to a sketch on the album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Douglas had two brief appearances in the fourth series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. At the beginning of episode 42, "The Light Entertainment War", Adams is in a surgeon's mask (as Dr. Emile Koning, according to on-screen captions), pulling on gloves, while Michael Palin narrates a sketch that introduces one person after another but never actually gets started. At the beginning of episode 44, "Mr. Neutron", Adams is dressed in a "pepperpot" outfit and loads a missile on to a cart driven by Terry Jones, who is calling for scrap metal ("Any old iron..."). The two episodes were broadcast in November 1974. Adams and Chapman also attempted non-Python projects, including Out of the Trees.
Some of Adams's early radio work included sketches for The Burkiss Way in 1977 and The News Huddlines. He also wrote, again with Graham Chapman, the 20 February 1977 episode of Doctor on the Go, a sequel to the Doctor in the House television comedy series.
As Adams had difficulty selling jokes and stories, he took a series of odd jobs, including as a hospital porter, barn builder, and chicken shed cleaner. He was employed as a bodyguard by a Qatar family, who had made their fortune in oil. Anecdotes about the job included that the family had once ordered one of everything from a hotel's menu, tried all the dishes, and sent out for hamburgers. Another story had to do with a prostitute sent to the floor Adams was guarding one evening. They acknowledged each other as she entered, and an hour later, when she left, she is said to have remarked, "At least you can read while you're on the job."
In 1979, Adams and John Lloyd wrote scripts for two half-hour episodes of Doctor Snuggles: "The Remarkable Fidgety River" and "The Great Disappearing Mystery" (episodes seven and twelve). John Lloyd was also co-author of two episodes from the original "Hitchhiker" radio series (Fit the Fifth and Fit the Sixth, also known as Episodes Five and Six), as well as The Meaning of Liff and The Deeper Meaning of Liff. Lloyd and Adams also collaborated on an SF movie comedy project based on The Guinness Book of World Records, which would have starred John Cleese as the UN Secretary General, and had a race of aliens beating humans in athletic competitions, but the humans winning in all of the "absurd" record categories. The latter never proceeded past a treatment.
After the first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide became successful, Adams was made a BBC radio producer, working on Week Ending and a pantomime called Black Cinderella Two Goes East. He left the position after six months to become the script editor for Doctor Who.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a concept for a science-fiction comedy radio series pitched by Adams and radio producer Simon Brett to BBC Radio 4 in 1977. Adams came up with an outline for a pilot episode, as well as a few other stories (reprinted in Neil Gaiman's book Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion) that could potentially be used in the series.
According to Adams, the idea for the title The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy occurred to him while he lay drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, gazing at the stars, though he joked that the BBC would instead claim it was Spain "probably because it's easier to spell". He had been wandering the countryside while carrying a book called the Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe when he ran into a town where, as he humorously describes, everyone was either "deaf" and "dumb" or only spoke languages he could not understand. After wandering around and drinking for a while, he went to sleep in the middle of a field and was inspired by his inability to communicate with the townspeople. He later said that due to his constantly retelling this story of inspiration, he no longer had any memory of the moment of inspiration itself, and only remembered his retellings of that moment. A postscript to M. J. Simpson's biography of Adams, Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, provides evidence that the story was in fact a fabrication and that Adams had conceived the idea some time after his trip around Europe.
Despite the original outline, Adams was said to make up the stories as he wrote. He turned to John Lloyd for help with the final two episodes of the first series. Lloyd contributed bits from an unpublished science fiction book of his own, called GiGax. However, very little of Lloyd's material survived in later adaptations of Hitchhiker's, such as the novels and the TV series. The TV series itself was based on the first six radio episodes, but sections contributed by Lloyd were largely re-written.
BBC Radio 4 broadcast the first radio series weekly in the UK in March and April 1978. Following the success of the first series, another episode was recorded and broadcast, which was commonly known as the Christmas Episode. A second series of five episodes was broadcast one per night, during the week of 21 January – 25 January 1980.
While working on the radio series (and with simultaneous projects such as The Pirate Planet) Adams developed problems keeping to writing deadlines that only got worse as he published novels. Adams was never a prolific writer and usually had to be forced by others to do any writing. This included being locked in a hotel suite with his editor for three weeks to ensure that So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish was completed. He was quoted as saying, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by." Despite the difficulty with deadlines, Adams eventually wrote five novels in the series, published in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1992.
The books formed the basis for other adaptations, such as three-part comic book adaptations for each of the first three books, an interactive text-adventure computer game, and a photo-illustrated edition, published in 1994. This latter edition featured a 42 Puzzle designed by Adams, which was later incorporated into paperback covers of the first four "Hitchhiker's" novels (the paperback for the fifth re-used the artwork from the hardcover edition).
In 1980, Adams also began attempts to turn the first Hitchhiker's novel into a movie, making several trips to Los Angeles, California, and working with a number of Hollywood studios and potential producers. The next year, 1981, the radio series became the basis for a BBC television mini-series "The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" broadcast in six parts. When he died in 2001 in California, he had been trying again to get the movie project started with Disney, which had bought the rights in 1998. The screenplay finally got a posthumous re-write by Karey Kirkpatrick, was green-lit in September 2003, and the resulting movie was released in 2005.
Radio producer Dirk Maggs had consulted with Adams, first in 1993, and later in 1997 and 2000 about creating a third radio series, based on the third novel in the Hitchhiker's series. They also vaguely discussed the possibilities of radio adaptations of the final two novels in the five-book "trilogy." As with the movie, this project was only realised after Adams's death. The third series, The Tertiary Phase, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in September 2004 and was subsequently released on audio CD. With the aid of a recording of his reading of Life, the Universe and Everything and editing, Douglas Adams himself can be heard playing the part of Agrajag posthumously. So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish and Mostly Harmless made up the fourth and fifth radio series, respectively (on radio they were titled The Quandary Phase and The Quintessential Phase) and these were broadcast in May and June 2005, and also subsequently released on Audio CD. The last episode in the last series (with a new, "more upbeat" ending) concluded with, "The very final episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is affectionately dedicated to its author."
More recently, the film makers at Smoov Filmz adapted the anecdote that Arthur Dent relates about biscuits in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish into a short film called "Cookies". Adams also discussed the real-life incident that inspired the anecdote in a 2001 speech, reprinted in his posthumous collection The Salmon of Doubt. He also told the story on the radio programme It Makes Me Laugh on 19 July 1981.
In between Adams's first trip to Madagascar with Mark Carwardine in 1985, and their series of travels that formed the basis for the radio series and non-fiction book Last Chance to See, Adams wrote two other novels with a new cast of characters. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was first published in 1987, and was described by its author as "a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics." It received many rave reviews from American newspapers upon its publication in the USA. Adams borrowed a few ideas from two Doctor Who stories he had worked on: City of Death and Shada.
A sequel novel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul was published a year later. This was an entirely original work, Adams's first since So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. Reviewers, however, were not as generous with praise for the second volume as they had been for the first. After the obligatory book tours, Douglas Adams was off on his round-the-world excursion which supplied him with the material for Last Chance to See.
Adams sent the script for the HHGG pilot radio programme to the Doctor Who production office in 1978, and was commissioned to write The Pirate Planet (see below). He had also previously attempted to submit a potential movie script, called "Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen," which later became his novel Life, the Universe and Everything (which in turn became the third Hitchhiker's Guide radio series). Adams then went on to serve as script editor on the show for its seventeenth season in 1979. Altogether, he wrote three Doctor Who serials starring Tom Baker as the Doctor:
The episodes authored by Adams are some of the few that have not been novelised as Adams would not allow anyone else to write them, and asked for a higher price than the publishers were willing to pay.
Adams was also known to allow in-jokes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to appear in the Doctor Who stories he wrote and other stories on which he served as Script Editor. Subsequent writers have also inserted Hitchhiker's references, even as recently as 2007. Conversely, at least one reference to Doctor Who was worked into a Hitchhiker's novel. In Life, the Universe and Everything, two characters travel in time and land on the pitch at Lord's Cricket Ground. The reaction of the radio commentators to their sudden appearance is very similar to the reactions of commentators in a scene in the eighth episode of the 1965–66 story The Daleks' Master Plan, which has the Doctor's TARDIS materialise on the pitch at Lord's.
Elements of Shada and City of Death were reused in Adams's later novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in particular the character of Professor Chronotis, and Dirk Gently himself clearly fills much the same plot role as the Doctor (though the character is very different). Big Finish Productions eventually remade Shada as an audio play starring Paul McGann as the Doctor. Accompanied by partially animated illustrations, it was webcast on the BBC website in 2003, and subsequently released as a two-CD set later that year. An omnibus edition of this version was broadcast on the digital radio station BBC7 on 10 December 2005.
Adams is credited with introducing a fan and later friend of his, the zoologist Richard Dawkins, to Dawkins' future wife, Lalla Ward, who had played the part of Romana in Doctor Who. Dawkins confirmed this in his published eulogy of Adams.
When he was at school, he wrote and performed a play called Doctor Which.
Adams played the guitar left-handed and had a collection of twenty-four left-handed guitars when he died in 2001 (having received his first guitar in 1964). He also studied piano in the 1960s with the same teacher as Paul Wickens, the pianist who plays in Paul McCartney's band (and composed the music for the 2004–2005 editions of the Hitchhiker's Guide radio series). The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Procol Harum all had great influence on Adams's work.
Adams included a direct reference to Pink Floyd in the original radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which he describes the main characters surveying the landscape of an alien planet while Marvin, their android companion, hums Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond". This was cut out of the CD version. Adams also compared the various noises that the kakapo makes to "Pink Floyd studio out-takes" in his nonfiction book on endangered species, Last Chance to See.
Adams's official biography shares its name with the song "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Adams was friends with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and, on the occasion of Adams's 42nd birthday (the number 42 having special significance, being the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything and also Adams's age when his daughter Polly was born), he was invited to make a guest appearance at Pink Floyd's 28 October 1994 concert at Earls Court in London, playing guitar on the songs "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse". Video is not available of this event, but a link to audio is present below. Adams chose the name for Pink Floyd's 1994 album, The Division Bell, by picking the words from the lyrics to one of its tracks, namely "High Hopes". Gilmour also performed at Adams's memorial service following his death in 2001.
Pink Floyd and their lavish stage shows were also the inspiration for the Adams-created fictional rock band "Disaster Area", described in the Hitchhiker's Guide as "not only the loudest rock band in the galaxy, but in fact the loudest noise of any kind". One element of Disaster Area's stage show was to send a space ship hurtling into a sun, probably inspired by the plane that would crash into the stage during some of Pink Floyd's live shows, usually at the end of "On the Run". The 1968 Pink Floyd song "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" may also have influenced the ideas behind Disaster Area.
Douglas Adams was a friend of Gary Brooker, the lead singer, pianist and songwriter of the progressive rock band Procol Harum. Adams is known to have invited Brooker to one of the many parties that Adams held at his house. On one such occasion Gary Brooker performed the full (4 verse) version of his hit song "A Whiter Shade of Pale". Brooker also performed at Adams's memorial service.
Adams also appeared on stage with Brooker to perform "In Held Twas in I" at Redhill when the band's lyricist Keith Reid was not available. On several other occasions he had been known to introduce Procol Harum at their gigs.
Adams also let it be known that while writing he would listen to music, and this would occasionally influence his work. On one occasion the title track from the Procol Harum album Grand Hotel was playing when...
Suddenly in the middle of the song there was this huge orchestral climax that came out of nowhere and did not seem to be about anything. I kept wondering what was this huge thing happening in the background? And I eventually thought ... it sounds as if there ought to be some sort of floorshow going on. Something huge and extraordinary, like, well, like the end of the universe. And so that was where the idea for The Restaurant at the End of the Universe came from.
– Douglas Adams, Procol Harum at The Barbican
Adams made a number of references to music and musicians who had influenced his work through his books. In the Hitchhiker's Guide series, examples include one of the two mice, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, suggesting that as they have not found the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, they should instead make it up, proposing to use the question "How many roads must a man walk down?" This is a line from Bob Dylan's song, "Blowin' in the Wind". Prior to this scene, in the same novel, the ship's computer onboard the Heart of Gold, unable to assist or prevent the ship's impending destruction with two nuclear missiles closing in on it, sings "You'll Never Walk Alone" in the background, a Rodgers and Hammerstein hit from the musical Carousel which had been an early 1960s rock hit in the UK and then was adopted as a crowd chant by many football fans, in particular Liverpool supporters, a recording of which ended up on Pink Floyd's album Meddle, interspersed throughout the track "Fearless".
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the second novel in the series, is dedicated to the 1980 Paul Simon soundtrack album, One-Trick Pony. Adams says he played it "incessantly" while writing the book. In one scene in the fourth novel, So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish, Arthur Dent listens to a Dire Straits LP and Adams goes on to pay tribute to their lead guitarist, Mark Knopfler. Adams later revealed that the particular song to which he refers in the book – although never by name – is "Tunnel of Love", from the Making Movies album. And in the final novel, Mostly Harmless, Elvis is discovered playing in a diner attended by Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.
Besides modern rock music, Douglas Adams was a great admirer of the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, which provides a minor plot element in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Adams was also good friends with The Monkees' Michael Nesmith. In the early 1990s, one of the aborted attempts to have The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adapted into a movie would have had Nesmith as its producer.
Adams was also a fan of The Beatles. He makes a reference to Paul McCartney in Life, the Universe and Everything and quotes lyrics and titles from songs by The Beatles in Mostly Harmless and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency this exchange takes place:
Adams also does this several times in The Salmon of Doubt. In Chapter 3 there is a conversation between Kate and Dirk, which includes the following exchange:
Douglas Adams created an interactive fiction version of HHGG together with Steve Meretzky from Infocom in 1984. In 1986 he participated in a week-long brainstorming session with the Lucasfilm Games team for the game Labyrinth. Later he was also involved in creating Bureaucracy (also by Infocom, but not based on any book). Adams was also responsible for the computer game Starship Titanic, which was published in 1998 by Simon and Schuster. Terry Jones wrote the accompanying book, entitled Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic, since Adams was too busy with the computer game to do both. In April 1999, Adams initiated the h2g2 collaborative writing project, an experimental attempt at making The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a reality, and at harnessing the collective brainpower of the internet community.
In 1990, Adams wrote and presented a television documentary programme Hyperland which featured Tom Baker as a "software agent" (similar to the "Assistants" used in several versions of Microsoft Office, derived from their failed "Bob" program), and interviews with Ted Nelson, which was essentially about the use of hypertext. Although Adams did not invent hypertext, he was an early adopter and advocate of it. This was the same year that Tim Berners-Lee used the idea of hypertext in his HTML.
Adams described himself as a "radical atheist", adding "radical" for emphasis so he would not be asked if he meant agnostic. He told American Atheists that this made things easier, but most importantly it conveyed the fact that he really meant it. "I am convinced that there is not a god," he said. Despite this, he remained fascinated by religion because of its effect on human affairs. "I love to keep poking and prodding at it. I’ve thought about it so much over the years that that fascination is bound to spill over into my writing."
The evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion uses Adams's influence throughout to exemplify arguments for non-belief; Dawkins jokingly states that Adams is "possibly [my] only convert" to atheism. The book is dedicated to Adams, quoting him, "Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?".
Adams was also an environmental activist who campaigned on behalf of a number of endangered species. This activism included the production of the non-fiction radio series Last Chance to See, in which he and naturalist Mark Carwardine visited rare species such as the Kakapo and Baiji, and the publication of a tie-in book of the same name. In 1992, this was made into a CD-ROM combination of audio book, e-book and picture slide show.
Adams and Mark Carwardine contributed the 'Meeting a Gorilla' passage from Last Chance to See to the book The Great Ape Project. This book, edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer launched a wider-scale project in 1993, which calls for the extension of moral equality to include all great apes, human or nonhuman.
In 1994 he participated in a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro while wearing a rhino suit for the British charity organisation Save the Rhino. Many different people participated in the same climb and took turns wearing the rhino suit; Adams wore the suit while traveling to the mountain before the climb proper began. About £100,000 were raised through that event, benefiting schools in Kenya and a Black Rhinoceros preservation programme in Tanzania. Adams was also an active supporter of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Since 2003, Save the Rhino has held an annual Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture around the time of his birthday to raise money for environmental campaigns. The lectures in the series are:
Adams was a serious fan of technology. Though he did not buy his first word processor until 1982, he had considered one as early as 1979. He was quoted as saying that until 1982, he had difficulties with "the impenetrable barrier of jargon. Words were flying backwards and forwards without concepts riding on their backs." In 1982, his first purchase was a 'Nexus'. In 1983, when he and Jane Belson went out to Los Angeles, he bought a DEC Rainbow. Upon their return to England, Adams bought an Apricot, then a BBC Micro and a Tandy 1000. In Last Chance to See Adams mentions his Cambridge Z88, which he had taken to Zaire on a quest to find the Northern White Rhinoceros.
Adams's posthumously published work, The Salmon of Doubt, features multiple articles written by Douglas on the subject of technology, including reprints of articles that originally ran in MacUser magazine, and in The Independent on Sunday newspaper. In these, Adams claims that one of the first computers he ever saw was a Commodore PET, and that his love affair with the Apple Macintosh first began after seeing one at Infocom's headquarters in Massachusetts in 1983 (though that was very likely an Apple Lisa).
Adams was a Macintosh user from the time they first came out in 1984 until his death in 2001. He was the first person to buy a Mac in the UK (the second being Stephen Fry – though some accounts differ on this, saying Fry bought the first). Adams was also an "Apple Master", one of several celebrities whom Apple made into spokespeople for its products (other Apple Masters included John Cleese and Gregory Hines). Adams's contributions included a rock video that he created using the first version of iMovie with footage featuring his daughter Polly. The video can still be seen on Adams's .Mac homepage. Adams even installed and started using the first release of Mac OS X in the weeks leading up to his death. His very last post to his own forum was in praise of Mac OS X and the possibilities of its Cocoa programming framework. Adams can also be seen in the Omnibus tribute included with the Region One/NTSC DVD release of the TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide using Mac OS X on his PowerBook G3.
Adams used e-mail extensively from the technology's infancy, adopting a very early version of e-mail to correspond with Steve Meretzky during the pair's collaboration on Infocom's version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. While living in New Mexico in 1993 he set up another e-mail address and began posting to his own USENET newsgroup, alt.fan.douglas-adams, and occasionally, when his computer was acting up, to the comp.sys.mac hierarchy. Many of his posts are now archived through Google. Challenges to the authenticity of his messages later led Adams to set up a message forum on his own website to avoid the issue. Adams was also a keynote speaker for the April 2001 Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco, one of the major technical conferences on embedded system engineering. In his keynote speech, he shared his vision of technology and how it should contribute in everyday – and every man's – life.
In the early 1980s, Adams had an affair with novelist Sally Emerson, who was separated from her husband at that time. Adams later dedicated his book Life, the Universe and Everything to Ms. Emerson. In 1981 Emerson returned to her husband, Peter Stothard, a contemporary of Adams at Brentwood School, and later editor of The Times. Adams was soon introduced by friends to Jane Belson, with whom he later became romantically involved. Belson was the "lady barrister" mentioned in the jacket-flap biography printed in his books during the mid-1980s ("He [Adams] lives in Islington with a lady barrister and an Apple Macintosh"). The two lived in Los Angeles together during 1983 while Adams worked on an early screenplay adaptation of Hitchhiker's. When the deal fell through, they moved to London, and after several separations ("He is currently not certain where he lives, or with whom") and an aborted engagement, they married on 25 November 1991. Adams and Belson had one daughter together, Polly Jane Rocket Adams, born on 22 June 1994, shortly after Adams turned 42. In 1999, the family moved from London to Santa Barbara, California, where they lived until Adams's death. Following his funeral, Jane Belson and Polly Adams returned to London.
Adams died of a heart attack at the age of 49 on 11 May 2001, during the rest period of his regular workout at a private gym in Montecito, California. He had unknowingly suffered a gradual narrowing of the coronary arteries, which led at that moment to a myocardial infarction and a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. Adams had been due to deliver the commencement address at Harvey Mudd College on 13 May and was replaced at the last minute by Joseph Costello. His funeral was held on 16 May in Santa Barbara, California. Several friends and people he had worked with were in attendance. His ashes were placed in Highgate Cemetery in north London in June 2002.
A memorial service was held on 17 September 2001 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London. This became the first church service of any kind broadcast live on the web by the BBC. Video clips of the service are still available on the BBC's website for download.
In May 2002, The Salmon of Doubt was published, containing many short stories, essays, and letters, as well as eulogies from Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry (in the UK edition), Christopher Cerf (in the U.S. edition), and Terry Jones (in the U.S. paperback edition). It also includes eleven chapters of his long-awaited but unfinished novel, The Salmon of Doubt, which was originally intended to become a new Dirk Gently novel, but might have later become the sixth Hitchhiker novel.
Other events after Adams's death included a webcast production of Shada, allowing the complete story to be told, radio dramatisations of the final three books in the Hitchhiker's series, and the completion of the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The film, released in 2005, posthumously credits Adams as a producer, and several art design elements -- most notably a head-shaped planet seen near the end of the film -- incorporated Adams' features.
BBC Radio 4 also commissioned a third Dirk Gently radio series based on the incomplete chapters of The Salmon of Doubt, and written by Spice World writer Kim Fuller; however this has now been dropped in favour of a potential BBC TV series based on the two completed novels. A sixth Hitchhiker novel, And Another Thing..., by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, was released on 12 October 2009 (the 30th anniversary of the first book), published with the full support of Adams's estate. A BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime adaptation and an audio book soon followed.
See also: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
"The trouble with most forms of transport, he thought, is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. On Earth – when there had been an Earth, before it was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass – the problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another – particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish."
A BBC Radio 4 produced radio programme on how new media and technology will change our lives
He originally received attention when he wrote for the popular TV shows Monty Python and Doctor Who in the 1970s. In 1979, he wrote a science fiction radio play called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was later turned into a novel, then in the early 1980s, it became a TV miniseries, and in 2005, it became a film produced by Disney. He also wrote several sequels. Douglas was also known for his humorous detective novels starring Dirk Gentley, and for his efforts to conserve endangered species. In 2001, Adams died of a heart attack while he was working out at the gym.