Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

The Library of Technomadics

Latest News (February 21, 2018)… 

Maritime Mobile FT8 aboard Datawake, with new communication tools to keep this geeky technomad happy! I fired up the Icom 7300 ham rig and have been obsessively chasing grid squares with the latest digital mode. This involves a dedicated Raspberry Pi, a new antenna, and an upgrade to the console… a new post describes all this, including the magic of using “processing gain” to dramatically extend the range of radio communications.

The most recent additions to the archives include a detailed piece about Microship design from 1994,  an article in the UCSD magazine introducing that project on campus, a lovely photo with Maggie in southern Washington during our 1986 trip down the coast, and an evocative memory of Telluride in 1984. There are now 652 articles in the collection.

Nomadic Research Labs is a small business in addition to a hotbed of gonzo engineering. I perform services for clients in the San Juan Islands: movie digitizing (8 & 16 mm), thermal and 360° photography, small 3D printing (6x6x6), nautical geekery (console and floating lab design), and freelance tech/marketing writing.  

My eBay store is slowly getting built up again after a long hiatus… I have a very long way to go and it has been lying idle for years, but there are lots of treasures that need to find new homes while I’m still alive (well-curated numismatic and philatelic collections, random antiquities, paleo-gizmology, geek goodies, books, jewelry, and more).

BEHEMOTH in the Computer History Museum

After 17,000 miles and three versions, the BEHEMOTH bicycle is now in the Computer History Museum

Each of the six major technomadic machines is introduced at the links below, with links to detailed documentation, adventure tales, and media. These are the best starting points if you want to read about computerized bicycles and nautical geekery:

Enjoying the old radiometer from my childhood on a sunny/rainy day in the marina

Recent additions and features:


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.

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.

The Microship project took a decade, and then it was time for this new phase… a starship with tools for data collection, underwater exploration, circuit design, 3D printing, virtual reality, machining, music and video production, communications, and more.

Here are my major gizmological contraptions in reverse chronological order:

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

My current boat, Datawake, at her slip in February, 2016. She carries 60U of lab console space, piano, 3D printer, holodeck, movie scanner, 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. IEEE Spectrum did a short video introduction, although the console has grown considerably since that August 2016 shoot

The console aboard Datawake... click photo for details

The console aboard Datawake… click photo for details

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 in 2015. This was a ten-year development project (1993-2002)…  click photo for more.

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

The 580-pound BEHEMOTH bicycle, circa 1991. This was the final bike version, a 3-year project based in Silicon Valley. Click for more photos and details of this machine. (photo by Bob Ponzoni)

The Winnebiko II covered 6,000 miles from 1986-1988, and included a handlebar keyboard to allow writing while riding – click for more.

The original Winnebiko in January, 1984 – already 3,000 miles into an adventure that would total 17,000 miles. (photo by Katie Peden) Click photo for more about this first version of the system.

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.