inessential by Brent Simmons

The family intersection

Apple likes to talk about the intersection of liberal arts and technology — something I’ve always taken for granted. I didn’t think about it like that when I was growing up. It was just the water I swam in.

My Mom writes about her hospital stay, where a supervisor there had been a student of my Mom’s mom, my grandmother. Back in the ’70s, my grandmother, then in her 40s, went back to college and got a degree and then a master’s degree, and then went on to become a librarian at a small rural school in South Jersey.

She was and is a voracious reader. So were her parents. So’s my Mom. So am I. Words, books, stories — I remember those better than anything, and I remember the world around me best when I’m reading something good.

(I remember when I read the final pages of A Farewell to Arms — I was sneaking a read, as I often did, while my history teacher was lecturing. I had to re-read the final paragraphs a few times. I remember it was an unseasonably cool and windy summer in Newfield when I first read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I remember the bumpiness and torn seats of my middle-school bus because I remember reading 1984 on the way home. I remember thinking the bus would have fit into the book quite neatly. Doubleplusungood.)

My grandmom went on to introduce computers at her school. This was very early on. We had one at home, but hardly anyone else had one — they were still considered toys. (Macs didn’t even exist yet.) The question everybody always asked: “Cool — but is it actually useful for anything?” It was a hard question to answer.

My grandmom, on the other hand, knew the future when she saw it. I don’t know how she did it — it wasn’t a rich district — but she got the computers into the school, into the library (where they belong! Not in the math class). Way back when.

When I look at my upbringing, the nature and nurture, I’m completely unsurprised that I’ve written a newsreader, a weblog editor, and a publishing app. I just do what Grandmom always did, and what so many people do these days: I put words and technology in the same room.

The web itself is the beginning of the realization of the dreams of people like my Grandmom. And, without it, I don’t know what I would have done. (Mom has told me I would have been a criminal mastermind. Which could have been fun, I admit.)

(And I do it because, well, I need more to read. Which means you need to write more.)