Welcome to the Library of Technomadics!

Framing the Rainbow Latest News (May 5, 2016):  As I get ever more immersed in the geeky floating lab known as Datawake, I pause now and again to gaze back at dreamlike images of previous projects. I’m starting to post these here as photo essays (like the recent one on Microship electronics) — here are a few favorites from adventures aboard Nomadness back in 2008…


Steve Roberts in 1991 (photo by Mel Lindstrom)

“Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.”
— Steven K. Roberts

Since 1983, I have devoted all available resources to adventure, geek expressionism, and gonzo engineering. This has fueled a playful life of building and traveling with technomadic contraptions, writing about everything from the underlying tech to the romance of the road.

After a decade and 17,000 miles aboard a computerized recumbent bicycle, I turned my attention to building an amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran… while 580-pound BEHEMOTH, the final incarnation of the bike, became a permanent exhibit at the Computer History Museum.

The Microship project took a decade, and then it was time for a new phase… creating a starship of sorts, large enough for full-time adventure with an on-board lab and a suite of tools for data collection, underwater exploration, circuit design, 3D printing, milling, music and video production, communications, and more.

This site is the collection of all documents related to this entire series of projects (along with earlier and unrelated work, some historical tidbits, product reviews, and how-to material). At this writing (March, 2016) we are just in the process of migrating previous collections into this server, and building a system for navigating what turns out to be a complex and multi-threaded tale. The current article count is 386.

Recent Additions to the Library

Thousands of items are slated to be included to this archive, automatically timelined and given dated blog pages that match their actual publication or event dates. As such, “latest update” is relevant only to new postings (with an RSS feed), so here are some highlights:

BEHEMOTH console Macintosh on the road in 1991. Control used ultrasonic head mouse built into helmet (see photo above) as well as a chord keyboard in the handlebars. I used this to write articles and email while on the road.

Gonzo Engineering slide show from talk at Google in May, 2015 (37 images)

CQ VHF Ship of Dreams: The NEW Adventures of a Technomad – April, 1998

Big Byte (Australia) – Technomad & the Internet video (5:30) – May 30, 1994

Winnebiko on CBS Morning News – Wanderlust video (5:05) – July 26, 1984

Whole Earth Review Electronic Cottage on Wheels – Spring, 1987

Edward H. Roberts (my father) and his lever-release ice-cube tray – 1949

Build structures with cardboard-core fiberglass.

Prehistory of a Technomad – a bit of personal background that led up to the adventure… and Chapter 0 of the High-Tech Nomad book

My gizmological contraptions in reverse chronological order:

My new boat, Datawake, at her slip in Friday Harbor

My new boat, Datawake, at her slip in February, 2016. I am now installing 60U of lab console space, piano, 3D printer, mini-mill, SDR, audio/video production, NAS, electronics lab, ROV, and lots of embedded geekery that contrasts nicely with this classic 1974 Delta 50 by Vic Franck.

The Shacktopus system brings all my power-related tools into a single portable package, with data collection.

Shacktopus brings a rich set of power-related tools into a single portable package, and is now a backup power system aboard Datawake.

Nomadness is an Amazon 44 steel pilothouse sailboat that was my nautical substrate until late 2015. (photo by Wojtek Wacowski, with a little help from NASA)

Microship is an amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran, shown docked in Friday Harbor, Washington. This was a ten-year development project (1993-2003) and the boatlet was launched again in 2013… and she will be deployed from the upper deck of Datawake. Click for more info.

This is Polaris, my mobile lab built into a 24-foot Wells-Cargo trailer.

A brief interlude in 2004-5, this system was intended to incorporate my technomadic toolset into a backpack and render the substrate irrelevant. Clicking photo will take you to block diagram.

Bubba carried APRS location tracking, packet and voice ham radio, satellite phone, nav tools, & a small solar power system. I did a few mini-expeditions in Northwest waters.

The 580-pound BEHEMOTH bicycle, circa 1991. This was the final bike version, a 3-year project based in Silicon Valley. (photo by Bob Ponzoni in North Carolina)

Bonus shot of BEHEMOTH, just to show the monster on the road. I was doing a filming with the French TF-1 network, and it was freezing in Joshua Tree.

The Winnebiko II covered 6,000 miles from 1986-1988, and included a handlebar keyboard to allow writing while riding. (photo by Karen Greene near Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina)

The original Winnebiko in January, 1984 – already 3,000 miles into an adventure that would total 17,000 miles. (photo by Katie Peden near Clearwater, Florida)

Now in the Computer History Museum (along with the BEHEMOTH bicycle), this is the front panel of an 8008-based personal computer I designed and built in 1974. Click photo for full schematics.

OK, this one is a stretch, but maybe it had something to do with my later obsession with geeky recumbent bicycles pulling trailers. This is how I mowed the old family place back in Kentucky, long ago…