My Technology: Roll over Beethoven

The only way John Suchet could bring the great composer to life was on his keyboard
Click to follow
I DIDN'T expect a dead composer to take over my life. But the thing about Beethoven is that everyone knows who he was. Like Shakespeare. Someone said to me: "You're born knowing who Beethoven was."

So I touched a chord, so to speak. I intended writing only one book. That's what I told my wife and that's what my publisher contracted to. Then one became two and two became three because it's such a good story. I couldn't decide what to leave out, so I left out practically nothing.

Which is where the technology came in. How could I have managed without it? I couldn't . People asked: "Did you use a word processor?" Is the Pope Catholic? In fact, I used two, a desktop and a laptop. The desktop was what I started on; there must have been a few thousand pages on it. When I came to write the final draft, I wrote on the laptop and used the desktop as a search engine. How did I describe Prince Lichnowsky last time I mentioned him? Easy: find Lichnowsky.

All three books were written on DOS. Laughable, I know. But when I started - aeons ago - it was cutting-edge technology. It started to go out of date while I was still on Volume One. There just wasn't the time to stop and start learning Windows. That was just one of the things, along with decorating our flat and a host of other projects put on hold while I worked my way through Beethoven's life. I've now learned Windows, and DOS is just as good, as long as all you want is words, not pictures or whizzbangs. I'd have stuck with it, except the rest of the world had moved on.

Did I use the Internet? I didn't even have time to find out what the Internet was. I've since discovered hundreds of pages devoted to Beethoven, and it gives me great satisfaction to say I haven't yet read anything I didn't already know. Maybe I should set up my own website.

One development I didn't expect was to be asked to give talks about the man, with live musical accompaniment. It began with the usual round of literary lunches and dinners, and I now give talks around the country. I never realised there were so many arts festivals, theatres and musical groups.

How do I keep track of all my talks, the contact names and numbers, the stories told, the music played? The Psion palmtop might have been invented for me. My ITN life, my Beethoven life and my private life, all detailed and filed separately. And don't ask me smugly what I'd do if I lost it. Simple. It's all backed up on a disk the size of a postage stamp (as well as on the desktop). I'd go out and buy a new one (on the insurance), put the disk in and I'd be up and running. What would you do if you lost your Filofax?

I admit I've taken to the new technology better than I ever thought I would. As for the Internet, now I've learned what it is, personally I think it's the greatest advance in communication since the telephone. It's even more than that. How did the Kosovo Albanians first alert the world to the atrocities being inflicted on them? On the Internet.

The oppressed people of East Germany learned what they were missing by watching the West German television. The oppressed people of China are learning what they are missing from the Internet. It is the greatest weapon for freedom the world has.

`The Last Master: Passion and Glory' (Warner, pounds 7.99)