Robert A. Fowkes
January 26, 2002
Ossining, NY
Part of 683 mile round trip
3 hours

SUPPORT FILES AND RELATED DOCUMENTS () Collection of dozens of songs in the Orchestra-80 Format, created by Robert Fowkes

Robert Fowkes was one of my real longshots, where I was trying to really think outside the box of what kind of folks I was going to interview for the documentary. In his case, he was one of the more prolific creators of Orchestra-80 music. I'll take a moment to explain what that is, and why I thought it needed to go in (even if ultimately it did not).

As I was working on what was expected to be the "Artscene" episode, I was going to go into some detail about other BBS-related Art Scenes besides just ANSI art. Among them might be people who made crack screens, who made songs, and who made any sort of creative endeavor and then transferred it via BBSes. And in the early 1980's there was a really neat piece of music hardware for the Radio Shack TRS-80 that would allow it to make nice multi-voice music. It was called "Orchestra 80", and creating songs for it was like putting together a computer program. It appealed greatly to a number of people, including Robert Fowkes, who made a few dozen. (A few made many more than that.) I found e-mail addresses of some Orchestra-80 musicians and decided to try to get as many as I could together to show how the BBS let them express themselves in a new and interesting way.

As it turns out, Robert was the only Orchestra 80 musician (or for that matter, musician using BBSes in a way I could discern) that I ended up interviewing. So a large part of his "purpose" in his interview ended up not being used.

That aside, though, I found out that he'd done a good amount of work as a computer teacher in the 1980's, so we covered that aspect of his experience as well. In fact, while we were talking, he impressed the living hell out of me with his memory. He'd recognized me, and after some back and forth, it turned out I had competed in a computer competition for the Putnam Schools in my middle school years, nearly 20 years previously. And he remembered me. That's something. (I didn't place, but I did learn a lot about how much I DIDN'T know about programming on a time crunch.)

Oh, and did I mention his home theatre? Did I mention he made an addition to his house to hold it? That it is comprised of thousands of Laserdiscs, DVDs, and videotapes? Oh, yeah, that. It turned out, in fact, that he had been part of a forum of Home Theatre Enthusiasts who had moved that forum from place to place, from Compuserve and ultimately to a special website. Good stuff, and yet ANOTHER subject to talk about. It's amazing how varied some of the subjects can be, once you talk to a person.

We conducted the interview in that home theatre, and it came out really well, although the video image does poorly to convey the pure mass of material on the wall behind him. The photos, of course, show them all.

Again, I used the on-camera microphone, and in the stereo image of the recording, since I am sitting RIGHT next to the camera, my voice takes on a particularly bizzare stereo location.

A great interview, a great time.