Place Without A Computer

by Bedford Level Experiment

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about

Bedford Level Experiment’s debut full-length album, “Place Without A Computer”, is the true story of a young boy growing up in the 1980s, obsessed with video games and computers, but without one of his own.

The album takes us from the opening song, the lament “Bored In My Room”, through the eye-opening experience of seeing Pong for the first time in “Sault Ste. Marie”. From the ode to the earliest handheld games, “Vacuum Fluorescent Display”, and the first RPGs played on mainframe computer terminals in university basements, “Rogue”, to a tribute to the Block Parent’s helper, the Atari 2600, in “School Evacuation”.

Through the emotional highs and lows of the three-part retelling of purchasing and then being forced to return that coveted first personal computer, the Timex/Sinclair 1000. Finally, the album ends with a surprise happy ending, with the much more successful purchase of a second computer.

credits

released October 22, 2016

Music by Bedford Level Experiment
Lyrics, vocals, guitars, bass: Robin Harbron
Drums, keyboards: Rianna Harbron

Recorded & mixed by Robin at Zero Page Studios.
Mastered by Jon Törnblom at Transparent Mastering.

Cover photo: Robin
Cardboard computer: Ben
Layout: Darren Foulds

Thanks to:
Carla & family for putting up with us
Darren for the drum kit and love
Tim & Doug for the encouragement
Richard, Sam, Corey for the test listens

Inspiration thanks:
Midnight Oil for their album Place Without A Postcard
Cheezlekane for "64"
M.J. Hibbett for "Hey, Hey, 16K"
Richard Pepper for "I Can't Sing (Worth Beans)"
Rob O'Hara for “Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie”
T.C. Elliott and the rest of the FAWM gang for making it happen

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about

Bedford Level Experiment Thunder Bay, Ontario

Bedford Level Experiment makes sincere nerdrock, ranging from folk-rock to post-punk to shoegaze. We focus on creating concept albums around geek themes - procedurally generated Shakespeare lyrics, the sci-fi musings of John Wyndham, or growing up in the '80s as a computer nerd without a computer, for example. ... more

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Track Name: Bored In My Room
It's too cold to go out, I'm tired of cartoons
Nothing to read, got nothing to do
Ten years old, 1983
Got false notions of misery
Sit and dream of having my own
My own computer in my bedroom

I'm bored in my room, I got nothing to do

I'd program it, make my own games
Draw on graph paper, pixel each frame
Create new worlds, a computerized brain
Mazes and dungeons, dragons and kings
Explore outer space, and the ocean below
I'd never be bored, never oh no
Track Name: Place Without A Computer
I'm seeing those games everywhere
At the laundromat
At the grocery store
At Grandma's Restaurant
But none at home
This place without a computer

At the corner store
At the roller skating rink
At the pool hall
At the mall
Why can't it be for me?

I saw their phosphorus glow
I saw the new worlds
Places I've never been
But always wanted to be

At the hotel
At the airport
At the K-Mart
At the Chinese take-out
At the bowling alley
Track Name: Sault Ste. Marie
You're watching paddles moving
You're watching pixels bouncing
In Sault Ste. Marie
You're watching paddles moving
You're watching pixels bouncing
Sault Ste. Marie
A couple girls are playing
You're intensely watching
Sault Ste. Marie

Family trips weren't boring
When everywhere we went
New games to see
Family trips weren't boring
When everywhere we went
New games for me
Pong in their basement
Hooked up to the t.v.
Couldn't keep away

Black & white didn't matter
Monochrome forever
4 game variations
Black & white didn't matter
Monochrome forever
I liked the hockey
Track Name: Rogue
Going to the dungeon, that's what they called it
Down in the basement, at the university
Going to play Rogue on the terminals
Just 10 years old, my aunt brought me

I just wanted to play
% rogue
Didn't know any other way

Delving in the caverns, fighting all the monsters
Searching in the corners, gathering the treasure
I was looking for the Amulet of Yendor
It must be down here somewhere

Fighting with the vi movement keys
Didn't seem a good idea to me
Thunderstorms make the power flicker
20 minutes to reboot the server!?
Track Name: I Want A Turn
Hoping that I could play again
I went over to a friend's
Anticipation overwhelmed me

Hoping didn't help, he played first
Hardly ever gave me a turn
Restarted every time he lost

I want a turn,
You get to play all the time

But I watched him play Pitfall!
And Cosmic Ark, it was the best of all
Rescuing those strange little creatures

Later he told me he finished the game
Travelling far enough, the ending came
The Ark had returned to earth
Track Name: Vacuum Fluorescent Display
Collecting the bottle caps, we needed all six
Trying to spell Pac-Man, the C was hard to get
I got my prize, a plastic yellow disc
With four buttons, and in the middle a

Vacuum fluorescent display
The brilliant glow
Pierced my soul

I got Defender, on sale at Kay-Bee Toys
Powered with four Ray-O-Vac batteries
A variable speed control that would shift the pitch
So many buttons, like hyperspace!

Then Tron with light-cycles and throwing discs
Defeating the MCP, without the help of Bit
Playing an electronic game about a game inside the game
Wrapping the score at 1,999
Track Name: School Evacuation
We had a water main break at our school
All the kids got sent home
My parents were both at work
So I got sent to a classmates' house

And in the basement, they had an Atari 2600
I played Vanguard all afternoon long
And when my parents got back home
I didn't leave

We had a gas leak at our school
Another big evacuation
My parents were both at work
So I got sent to another kid's house

And in the basement, they had an Atari 2600
I played Smurf's Rescue all afternoon long
And when my parents got back home
I didn't leave

There was a blizzard during the day
So they shut down the school
My parents were both at work
So I got sent to my buddy's house

And in the basement, they had an Atari 2600
I played Fast Food all afternoon long
And when my parents got back home
I didn't leave
Track Name: Buying A Computer
After years of resisting my pleading & whining
Saying no to me asking for an Atari
An Intellivision, any game console
Mom heard that a computer would be good
Surely I could learn something from it
Instead of just playing those games

So it was decided, and Dad put in charge
We went to Coles bookstore and there we found
A Buyer's Guide for Computers
We didn't buy the book, we just stood in the store

Going to buy a computer today
Going to buy a computer today
Buying a Computer

Dad looked through each model, comparing the price
The cheapest one a Timex/Sinclair 1000
So back home we drove, to look in the phone book
And called stores until we found who stocked it

We drove to the store, the only dealer in town
An albino with a crooked sneer smile
"A consultation" in his dimly lit office
To sell us a more expensive computer.

Dad insisted we wanted the Sinclair
Recalling the one thing he read in the guide
"At 99 dollars, it could be considered
The world's first disposable computer."

Eventually the man relented and decreed
That perhaps the Timex/Sinclair 1000
Was the best computer for us after all.
So we bought it and brought it back home.

Went and bought a computer today
Went and bought a computer today
Bought a computer!
Track Name: Programmed For Hours
I brought home my first computer, hooked it up to the black & white t.v.
Tiny flat membrane keyboard, set it on a desk my grandpa built
The computer came with an instruction book; I read every page but needed more
So my mom found a red-covered book: 101 Timex/Sinclair 1000 Tips & Tricks

I typed in nearly every program, a virtual etch-a-sketch was my favourite
And I learned how to input a string from the keyboard, and do IF/THENs

This led to me making my first game on my own computer
A text adventure where you typed in "north" or "east"
Exploring a dangerous space station

I worked on it for two days and never saved, because it couldn't save
When I finally had to turn the computer off it was lost forever

I came down with a horrible fever during this time
So sick I couldn't go to school
But I got out of bed and sat at my desk
And programmed that machine for hours

Mom brought me to the doctor to get me checked out
She told him about the computer and how I wouldn't stop
She wanted him to make me quit using that computer
But he only laughed and said that wasn't the problem
Track Name: Unsaved
I loved my Timex/Sinclair
But couldn't get it to save or load
Hooked up a cassette recorder to it
Through a rats' nest of cables
Tried everything I could think of
But nothing worked

If I could save and load
I could do so much more
I'd make my dreams

I asked my parents for help but
They knew even less than I did
So they asked friends & family
My aunt said her boyfriend could
So she brought me out to his place
To take a look at it

If I could save and load
I could do so much more
I'd keep my dreams
And build them more

He lived in a trailer surrounded
By Volvos in various states of repair
He tried for a while with no success either
Then he showed me his VIC-20
And some programs that he made
Like a program that calculated pi
But we gave up on the Sinclair

Couldn't get it to save or load
Would have done so much more
I lost my dreams
They are no more

Couldn't get it to save or load
Would have done so much more
I lost my dreams

So I returned the computer today
So I returned that computer today
Had to return it
Track Name: Saved
Back, back to being bored
No computer, empty desk
Had my dreams, and then lost them

"We'll get another," my parents said
"We can look on our spring break trip."

Down, down the road
A 200 mile drive to Duluth
Went to the Target, to buy a VIC-20

Almost bought it, but my parents saw
The Commodore 64 had dropped in price

"We'll get another", my parents said
We bought the C-64 at Target

I brought it back to the hotel, still sealed in the box
So impatient, I wanted to play it
Wanted to hook it up to the TV in the room
But my parents were worried I'd break it, or set off some alarm
So all I could do was read the User's Guide
About how to type in programs to play Row Row Your Boat
Or make a Commodore balloon fly across the sky
I couldn't wait to go back home
And back home we finally went

Walking to the corner store to buy the new issue of Transactor or Ahoy!
Riding my bike down the road to Zellers to buy Jumpman Junior on cartridge
Typing in that balloon sprite demo from the Commodore 64 Programmer's Reference Guide

Bought a computer, my very own computer