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

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

The Library of Technomadics

BIU transparency scan - edit

BEHEMOTH

In 1983, I left Ohio on a "computerized recumbent bicycle" named Winnebiko to begin a career of technomadic publishing, then after the first 10,000 miles built a new machine that would let me write while riding. After another 6,000 miles, it was time for the mega-cycle... a 580-pound monster named BEHEMOTH. All three bike versions are described here.

Microship

After 9 years of pedaling around the US on geeky bicycles, it was time to port the whole adventure to water. The Microship project spanned a decade, with three different labs and multiple design revisions... at last yielding an amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran. This massive project was fueled by about 160 corporate sponsors and a team of brilliant geeks...

Nomadness

By the time the Microship was "done" in 2003, I wanted something more practical... large enough to live aboard with crew, piano, and lab. After a year with a rocketship 36-foot trimaran, I bought an Amazon 44 — a steel pilothouse cutter. With the intent of preparing for open-ended global voyaging, I cruised and lived aboard for 6 years while immersed in nautical geekery.

Datawake

In my sixties, it was time to move to the Dark Side... so I found a new owner for Nomadness and acquired a Vic Franck Delta 50. I now live aboard this floating lab in the San Juan Islands, with communications, virtual reality, underwater vehicle, piano, audio studio, data collection, machine shop, and deployable micro-trimaran for local exploration.

Building a Feline Outhouse

Take it Outside, Kitty… Building a Boat Cat Litter Box by Steven K. Roberts, aboard Datawake OK, so I admit it… I love this cat. Isabelle lives aboard with me, and her tubby cuddly awesomeness increases the quality of life in lots of ways. But even a quirky Russian Blue who pushes all the right feline buttons but…

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The Datawake ADS-B PiAware Receiver

One of my obsessions over the years has been collecting data, probing the radio spectrum, sensing outside my limited visual and hearing range, and deploying probes to expand my awareness of the environment. This leads to recognition of patterns, better understanding of how things work, and the voyeuristic thrill of peeking behind the curtains of technology or human activity. Tracking…

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Cat Scratching Posts for Boats

I can’t imagine living aboard without a cat, and Isabelle moved with me to Datawake after three years aboard Nomadness. She’s a constant joy, but there are still feline realities that have to be considered: dining, elimination, and scratching. All are challenging on a boat, given space constraints and the need to handle dynamic conditions. Telling a cat…

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Building a Heavy-Duty Piano Drawer

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs A key requirement for my floating lab/studio was to have a digital piano aboard, but limited space dictates a deployment system that lets it stow away when not in use. I designed the console around this, and built a piano drawer that can handle a quarter-ton. It was important that it not…

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The Shacktopus Portable Power Beast

These are the voyages of the hand truck, Shacktopus. Her continuing mission… to seek out new loads and strange environments… to boldly blink where no one has blinked before. On a voyaging sailboat, stable power goes with the territory: a huge battery bank charged by isolated shore cable and solar panels, diesel genset with a…

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1974 Homebrew 8008 System

In 1974, six months of geek obsession led to one of the first personal computers... a homebrew 8008 that is now on display in the Computer History Museum. The story of that machine is here, including complete schematics. This predated the computer kits that kicked off the personal computer revolution, and it was in daily use for years.

The Polaris Mobile Lab

I have occasionally needed a capable laboratory that is not constrained to a fixed location, so I built one into a 24-foot utility trailer. Featured in MAKE: Magazine, this is a detailed description that includes preparing the space, inventory storage, furniture, fixturing, and power.

Isabelle

I live aboard Datawake with this magical being, and have a massive backlog of photos and stories. In the meantime, this is just a teaser... this 7-year-old Russian Blue has a lot to do with my quality of life. Here's her high-tech litter box, with carbon filter and webcam:

The Shacktopus Power Cart

A universal power system, built into a collapsible hand truck for use in emergencies.

Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the exquisite tools that have become part of the ship: 8 & 16mm film digitizing, thermal imaging, 360 photography, ROV exploration, 3D printing, and system design...

Microship Store

I have an online store for my technomadic publications, along with a few special items of historical interest. (This is in addition to the Microship eBay store offering an eclectic mix of gizmology, collectibles, and antiquities.)

New Posts

This column shows new material as it is added, and may include articles about the Datawake boat project, dives with the ROV, photography, and other real-time content.

Maritime Mobile FT8 Amateur Radio

I’ve recently been enjoying immersion in a sort of ham radio for introverts… a new digital mode called FT8 that allows weak-signal communication on all the HF bands from 160 to 6 meters via tiny 50Hz-wide signals exchanged by time-synchronized computers running WSJT-X. A complete exchange takes a minute and a half, with the connected machines…

Using a FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Aboard

A driving force in my years of building technomadic machines has been a toolset for seeing the world beyond the limitations of my usual senses… something that is not only intrinsically fascinating, but essential for diagnostics. The latest addition is a FLIR ONE thermal imaging camera (the Gen-3 USB-C model for Android; there is also…

Datawake in Journal of the San Juan Islands

During my years in Friday Harbor, mostly living aboard Nomadness and Datawake, I have kept a low profile in the local media. This was an exception, with an enjoyable interview with Hayley Day that became a front-page piece in the weekly paper… along with a related editorial. Here’s a photo of the front page, with…

The Boat Bidet

(photo above: the heated seat of the bidet, as viewed by the FLIR ONE thermal camera) This is the new control console for my toilet aboard Datawake, which has just had a major upgrade. Although most of my attention in the last year and a half has been on the übergeeky systems in the lab, there…

Lifestyle Geekery Aboard Ship

Most of my posts about the starship Datawake focus on the geeky components… console systems, the holodeck, exotic digital radio, studio-grade audio processing, and so on. But this boat is home as well as lab, and many of my projects are unglamorous, non-blinking tools for simply improving the quality of life aboard. This post covers a few…

The Ship Weather Station

Datawake was named for a central theme of this project: slurping information from a wide variety of sensors, presenting it on a console, then leaving a wake of data astern. “Sensors” come in many flavors, and I use the term to include status bits, temperatures, radio traffic, video, navigation data, network and server logs, motion detectors, and anything else that conveys…

Recent Additions to Archives

Any changes to the library will be briefly featured here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or edits to existing material.

Roamin’ Free, but Plugged Into the Job – USA Today

Meet a high-tech nomad - USA Today

During the primitive beginning of my paleo-technomadic bicycle travels, the media was still unfamiliar with the implications of the technology that was making it possible… even though vibrant communities were developing in the various pre-Internet online services. After a small article about me appeared in USA Today (May 1, 1984), I got a contract with…

Technomad – San Jose Magazine

San Jose magazine cover, Jan 1998

The convoluted trail that led from biking to sailing involved a variety of nautical substrates, lab spaces, partners, and projected itineraries. This article is a glimpse of the beginning of the micro-trimaran project that began during the end of my 2-year stint in a building sponsored by Apple and continued until sometime in 2003. The…

Microship project on KRON New Media News – video

This beautiful piece by Stan Bunger was filmed in Silicon Valley in late 1997, and aired shortly after we moved north to build a lab in the woods of Camano Island. Unlike typical local TV news programs, he took the time to explore the technical aspects of the project, yet framed it with the real…

The BEHEMOTH – Bicycling Magazine

BEHEMOTH photo by Mel Lindstrom

The most amazing thing about this article is the photo, which was taken in the Palo Alto studio of Mel Lindstrom. Painting with light, he bid me hold still on a platform in front of a white sweep… then cut the room lights and opened the shutter of a 4×5 camera. He held blue/violet gels…

Winnebiko II on CNN Science and Technology Report, July 1988

This CNN piece is from a time when I had wrapped up the Winnebiko II adventure, and was embarking on a random speaking tour via a converted school bus. The Computing Across America book was finally published, and I was starting to think about the third bike version (the one that would come to be…

International Science Fair 1969 – Speech Synthesis

Science fairs, quite simply, kept me sane through those dark school years. The allure of the project, the deadlines, and having a justification for obsessive focus on things other than boring homework… these events shaped my life. Every year from 5th grade on, I had a science fair project, and this one was the last:…