Richard Fincher

  • Age : 40

  • Height : 5' 10"

  • Education :
    Imperial College of Science and Technology,
    London University

  • Resides : London, U.K.

  • Qualifications : B.Sc.(Hons), A.R.C.S.

  • Directorships : Room 101 Limited

On this page, you can find out about my current projects and interests, both personal and professional.
Room101 Ltd.

Formed on January 12th 1998, Room101 Limited is a Web Design and Database Consultancy company I started with my friend and colleague, Stéphan Israël. We currently have around 25 clients, for whom we design and maintain web sites, develop database solutions, and support with general marketing advice.

My new career in the field of web design is due largely to two projects - firstly a program called music@passport - published by Passport Designs Inc of Foster City, CA. The second project, undertaken on a voluntary basis, was my website for the rock group REO Speedwagon - see below for more details.


I have been interested and involved with computers since around the late seventies, when I participated in an experiment at the University of Sussex to see how young children could be taught computer programming skills.

I owned my first computer, a Commodore VIC20 at the age of 13, which I programmed in BASIC and in 6502 machine language. I took no formal qualifications in computers whilst at school, since I'd heard that the so called teachers were only about three paragraphs ahead of the pupils, but I learned all I could about computers from my favourite maths teacher Mr. Gee, during breaktimes. In those days, the school had one computer, (a Commdore 16k PET) and the fights to get access to it often lead to violence and/or tears.

Whilst studying for 'A' levels, (age 17 - 18), I took a Saturday job in the local computer store, Weald Computers. We sold the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Commodore VIC20 and 64, Oric, Sinclair QL and Amstrad CPC range of computers. (The shop up the road sold the BBC series computers, so we didn't touch those!). It was during this period that I gained my interest in retail, and that I started making computerised music with Automatic Barrier.

I acquired my first Apple Macintosh in 1991 (a 1 Mb Mac Plus). I'd first used the Macs in college in 1986. My interest was mainly in graphic design programs such as QuarkXPress, Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop. I also used OpCode's Vision and Passport's Encore for musical experimentation.

A stalwart Macintosh affecionado, I have also owned a Macintosh LC, and LC475, and my latest computer, my trusty Power Macintosh 8100/80av.


My first internet access at work was through AppleLink, a rather antiquated BBS system even at the time in 1992. We soon upgraded to CompuServe, but still had to pay $0.15 per incoming message. My first personal internet account was with C.I.X., which was a UK-based conferencing system with an IP prompt as well. I signed up with Demon Internet in 1995, and well remember the first time I typed HTTP into my newly downloaded copy of N.C.S.A Mosaic, (one of the first web browsing programs).

I have watched the imaginative and enterprising development of the Netscape family of web browsers since beta 0.9, and noted the inexorable eclipsing of their efforts by Microsoft with their Internet Explorer product, about which I will not comment further on this page.

The most compelling thing about the Internet is that for the first time, the content of a medium of mass communication is completely open - anyone can produce a website, whether great or small, fascinating or boring, everyone gets their say. It's always seemed to me that in the record industry, most of the infrastructure is devoted to concentrating 99% of resources onto a select few people - people chosen by obscure processes over which a tiny minority of people have control, and using criteria which often have nothing to do with talent, sincerity or committment to their fans. The same might be said about movies, TV programmes, computer programs, magazines, books, whatever. The internet is a breath of fresh air.

The most dangerous thing about the internet is the lack of individual identity. In "real life", it can be difficult to tell the difference between missionary workers and drug dealers, between politicians and extremist fanatics, but on the internet, the clues and warning signs which we've all grown up to recognise, are simply not there. An 80 year old man from Mexico can pretend to be a 15 year old girl from Moscow, and vice versa. All I would say about all of this is be careful.


I've always found programming computers an exciting challenge, and although I took a hiatus from programming for some years, since 1996 I've discovered the delights of web programming using the Common Gateway Interface (commonly called CGI), and the PERL programming language, more recently supplemented with Netscape's inappropriately named Javascript package. The appeal I find in web programming is largely that anything I write is immediately used/abused/broken/praised by hundreds of internet users, cutting out the normal processes of beta-programs, duplication, manual writing etc... etc...


Like many of my class-mates, I learned the recorder at age 6, but despite lacking the patience to practice formally or attend regular lessons, I soon realised that this was something I could do well. However, several years later it was noticed that I was using my left and right hands in the reversed position to normal - something which didn't matter on the recorder, but would be a major obstacle in taking on a more serious instrument. It was fortunate this was caught when I was young enough to adapt, since I later took up the Oboe, which I played for around 4 years.

From around 1981, I became very interested in the emerging pop music created entirely by synthesizers. My heros were bands like Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, The Human League and Landscape. However, my two favourite bands were most certainly REO Speedwagon and The Electric Light Orchestra, my copies of Hi-Infidelity and Time were often played 5 or 6 times a week! Other bands I've come to love are Supertramp, Foreigner and Iron Maiden.

I grew up with orchestral music, the composers my father idolised being Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Their best known works are The Wedding March and Also Sprach Zarathustra (The 2001 Theme). I found myself very taken with Russian composers, in particular Sergei Prokofiev's ballet score for Romeo & Juliet, Op.64

I listen to music using a top-line turntable, the Linn Sondek LP12. Originally released in 1974, this audiophile reference record player produces a very musical and involving sound which is far more enjoyable to my ears than any CD player I've yet heard. It can't be denied that CD surpasses vinyl on the majority of measurable tests, but the human ear is an extremely subjective transducer, and absolute accuracy when applied to music is rather missing the point I feel, particularly when applied to rock and roll where analogue distortion is a crucial element of the sound of the instruments.

Automatic Barrier

My first rock concert was in 1983 to see Depeche Mode in Brighton at the Dome. I saw that it was indeed possible to present computer programmed music to a live audience, and within a few months I'd started a one-man group, Automatic Barrier, using my VIC20 computer to produce programmed backing tracks which I sung over, and played recorder. Later, I added real synthesizers. At a time when everyone else was using the Roland SH-101, I opted for the KORG MS-20, which looked more like a telephone switchboard than a musical instrument, with it's programmable patch panel. This didn't satisfy me for long however, and I later went through the Mono/Poly, DW-6000 and DW-8000 in close succession, eventually discovering the Roland U-20 in 1989, which I have to this day and use mainly for the piano sound.

Automatic Barrier ran for around 4 years, during which time I wrote around 50 songs, and performed about 10 live concerts (with varying degrees of success!) During my time at Imperial College, I played my music on the college radio station, along with the music of many other college bands which I recorded around the campus.

IC Radio

I got involved with the college radio station almost on my first day at university, it was really my home-from-home, I spent most of my spare time there when I wasn't playing with the Macs in the computing department. My main show was on Tuesday nights at 7pm. Entitled The Automatic Barrier Show, I used to play about 20 minutes of music by college bands (including one track of my own), and follow it up with a feature called Better Than The Average B-Side, and reviews of two albums. When funkmaster Ed Cartwright left college, I took over the Wednesdays 8pm slot with a show called Non-stop Ecstatic Dancing. (Soft Cell reference). This was kind of an antidote to my Tuesdays show, since on this show I played back-to-back dancable music with attempted clever segues and only spoke once at the end.

In my second year at college, I took over the job of main D.J. for the Southside Disco, which the station had just assumed responsibility for. I can honestly say that presenting the once weekly discos were one of the high-points in my life, I seemed to be able to play just what people wanted to listen to, without overplaying my own favourite records. Firm disco favourites included tracks like "She Sells Sanctuary", "New Year's Day", "Venus", and the two Frankie Goes To Hollywood tracks. I was occasionally asked for "house" records, but used to pretend I didn't have any.

In my last year, I ran the station newsletter, took over hassling the record companies for free records, and stood for Station Manager. (Although I won the election, I never took up the post, due to discontinuation of my studies at college - a minor technicality!)

REO Speedwagon

By December 1995, I'd not heard any news about REO Speedwagon since 1990, which was the last time they'd released an original album - and that without their long-time guitarist and drummer. So I decided to start a tribute website about them, thinking that maybe I'd meet someone else who liked the band. Since first hearing Keep on Lovin You in 1981, there'd been something I particularly related to in this band, probably summed up most by the song Tough Guys. I was fortunate enough to make contact with Chad Harrison, and his wife Shari - keen fans who gave me a lot of support and encouragement, not to mention typing in the band's lyrics. After a few weeks, I discovered that someone had beaten me to it, James Messick from North Carolina had put up an REO site about a month before. We both decided that co-operation was the best way forward - I provided a few graphics for his site, and he linked in a few of my pages to his.

In March 1996, I've been playing around with programming in PERL, and decided to try out the idea of a Chat Page, an area on the internet where people could leave messages for each other. I remember thinking "I wonder if anyone is out there, I wouldn't be surprised if people just ignore it". However, there were a few posts during the first week, including a few marked Official Source. After a little while, it turned out that Official Source was in reality Neal Doughty, the keyboard player with the band. I was delighted, as were the small group of other people that had begun to congregate around the page. A small group which was soon to get much larger.

In May 1996, after a few preliminary discussions with Baruck Consolo Management, I went to bed one night knowing that somewhere, in a recording studio half way across the world, the members of REO Speedwagon were sitting around a mixing console deciding whether or not to make my site the Official website for the band. By morning I had my answer - yes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Science Fiction

Since first seeing the 70's reruns of Star Trek, I've been a dedicated fan of science fiction. The appeal of science fiction to me is contained in the question, "Do humans become different creatures when in different environments, or will they essentially behave the same?" Until the 1800s, it was generally assumed that mankind started out perfect in the Garden of Eden, and was basically getting more and more corrupt and degenerate leading up to Armageddon and the end of the world. The role science played in popular culture involved a reversal of this theme, the notion that in the future mankind would eliminate disease, poverty, injustice, violence and mistreatment. Although some futuristic works such as 1984, Brave New World and Logan's Run paint a picture of a horrific world, others like Star Trek assume that in three or four hundred years, we will have evolved beyond the need for money, outgrown ethnic and religious conflicts, and acquired universal respect for each other.

My prefered vision of the future includes elements from both these environments, such as is found in the TV series Babylon 5. Set in the 23rd century, Babylon 5 brings a number of new ideas to TV science fiction. Firstly, and most importantly to me, Babylon 5 is a story about people, and includes some wonderful characterisations. The series was planned from the start to run for 5 seasons, during which a continuous story would be told - a contrast to the majority of Star Trek episodes, where things are generally 'reset' to their original conditions at the end of the story. The space-ships and other alien settings in B5 are completely computer generated, a break from the traditional model-based shots of earlier series. One slogan adopted by the shows production team is "No cute kids or robots". B5 is aimed at an adult audience. The show is the brainchild of producer Joe Strazynski, executive producer and writer of many of the episodes. Another novelty factor is that Joe spends several hours a day interacting directly with the fans of the show on the internet. This brings with it a series of problems, but is a crucial part of the show's enjoyment. Basically, unless you follow the on-line discussions you miss some of the more subtle plot devices.

I'm growing increasingly dismayed with the route which mainstream science fiction is taking. It seems that someone has decided that special effects are what audiences come to see. I feel sure that a typical 90s movie starts life as a list of special effects on a story board, and is usually fleshed out with a kiddie's fairy story for a plot and cardboard cutout characters. Among the earliest examples of this trend are the Star Wars movies, and the original Star Trek movie, which is nothing more than a series of reaction shots as the cast gaze in amazement at a variety of swirly things. As part of this movement, quality series of the 60's and 70's like Blakes 7 and The Invaders are commonly written off simply because of their unconvincing model shots.