“Your time on earth is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
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I spent much of yesterday at one of my favourite places – the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m hoping to help them out as a voluntary writer from time to time as they develop their digital platforms for children. Meanwhile, they’ve asked me for a few activities they can hand out in school holidays to children going around the houses.

That means revisiting the five Shakespeare-linked properties maintained by the Trust, and sitting in on some of their workshops bringing history to life for Key Stage 2 children. It’s the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do, since I’m passionate about heritage, history, Shakespeare and communicating with children in intellectually stimulating ways. I wandered in the lovely Birthplace garden, admired the Quince and Medlar trees (the gardener seemed impressed that I recognised them!) and then went around the house, talked with some of the staff showing people around and sketched some interesting objects I might use in my work.

On the train home, I noticed how many people use iPhones these days. I’m no longer an early adopter.

Collapsed exhausted into bed, slept soundly and woke up to the announcement of Steve Jobs’ untimely death. He lasted four years longer than Shakespeare, not much of an innings these days. But what a life. I wonder if, when they heard the news of his death, people had the slightest idea that Shakespeare, like Jobs, would turn out to have such a lasting influence, worldwide, on human history. Most of the visitors I saw touring the birthplace yesterday were Chinese. It’s not just a Western thing.

So, Jobs and Shakespeare. Both dead by early middle age. Possibly, both absolute control freaks and hell to work with. In SJ’s case, it’s documented, in Will’s it’s not. We’ll never know. Both lived their dream to the full and would have subscribed to Jobs’ credo, “Your time on earth is this. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” People say Shakespeare, from a humble country-town background, couldn’t possibly have written all those plays, that he must have used an alias, been a front for someone rich and well-connected. Yet there’s no problem, in a more open and accountable age, with folks believing that Jobs, from an unpromising mixed-race background, adopted by blue-collar Californians, who dropped out of college and made his own way, could achieve such enormous things.

Some people are just geniuses. Deal with it. Some are born great, some have it thrust upon them, but some achieve it and show us how possible, if remarkable, it really is. We need to treasure such people, not suspect conspiracy theories about them.

I arranged my trip to Stratford, like many others before, by booking rail tickets on a MacBook. I wrote my dissertation on it, and all my MA essays. I signed up for my MA after researching courses on an iMac. I decided to go back to studying Shakespeare after being inspired by a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Globe in London, booked on my MacBook, accompanied by friends I’d made through Doctor Who fandom on Live Journal. I probably booked Tennant’s Hamlet on my MacBook too.

I probably would have done most, if not all, of those things on Windows if that had been all I had at the time (Oh, I run my School library on Bento, too, and carry a little iPad into work, in a keyboard dock. It draws a lot of admiring glances). Even Steve Jobs couldn’t take credit for the internet, but what he did was break down the barriers between people like me, who aren’t naturally techhies, and what it has to offer. Our family now has, collectively, two MacBooks, one iMac, one iPad and an iPhone. I’ve lost count of the iPods we’ve been through.

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.

Control freak to the end?



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