The Library of Technomadics

Home movie digitizing, performed aboard our floating lab in the San Juan Islands...

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.

(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

Panel-Mounting the Home Patrol Scanner

Keeping my ear to the ground… by Steven K. Roberts One of the central themes aboard this geeky ship is expanding the sensorium. I’ve always been fascinated by data collection in all its forms… not just sensors that reveal system health or the state of the environment, but real-time information that shifts my awareness into a much larger…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Building a Heavy-Duty Piano Drawer

by Steven K. RobertsNomadic 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 the drawer not…

Read More

The Shacktopus Portable Power Cart

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…

Read More

New Posts

This column showcases new activity, and may include articles about the Datawake boat project, dives with the ROV, photography, and other real-time content.

An Underwater Exploration Toolkit for Boats

One of the strongest motivations behind the Datawake project is to extend my human sensorium, letting me see into otherwise invisible realms. This takes many forms: data collection systems fed by environmental sensors, embedded probes that report conditions I would never otherwise detect, optics for long-range peering, scanners and software-defined radios for keeping my ear to the…

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…

Recent Additions to Archive

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or edits to existing material. January 17, 2020 item count: 878

Artificial Intelligence – Byte

This was my first substantial essay on AI, and fell out of an intensely stimulating two-week adventure at Stanford University that included the first International Conference on Artificial Intelligence, a LISP conference, schmoozing with some truly amazing authors, hanging out at Xerox PARC for an evening, and generally getting my brain expanded during every waking…

Lament for the Semi-Sentient

Long ago, I wrote this little humor piece… with fantasies about my homebrew computer developing intelligence and getting bored with sitting around in a keyboard wait loop. This was its first publication, and it later appeared in the Mensa Bulletin (June, 1979) and InfoWorld (November 10, 1980). The artwork below was done by David Caudill…

Industrial Design with Microcomputers – book review

My most ambitious book project of the pre-biking years was a textbook on industrial microprocessor engineering, published by Prentice-Hall… first as a hardcover (Industrial Design with Microcomputers) and then as a softcover edition (Creative Design with Microcomputers). It enjoyed a sort of cult-like status in some circles, as it was by no means a normal…

BEHEMOTH at 1994 ARRL Southwest Division Convention

Speaker Steve Roberts, N4RVE 1994 ARRL Southwest Division ConventionSan Diego, California — August 26-28, 1994 The ultimate road warrior, roving researcher and high-tech bicyclist Steve Roberts, N4RVE, of Nomadic Research Labs will tell us about the recumbent bicycle he built, the Big Electronic Human Energized Machine… Only Too Heavy “BEHEMOTH.” Steve’s solar-powered recumbent bicycle weighs 580lbs…

LISP Comes of Age

In August 1980, I flew from Ohio to attend the Artificial Intelligence conference (AAAI) held at Stanford University, leading to my Byte cover story about AI. It was a huge adventure, connecting me with some incredible people… I have fond memories of an evening with astounding brains at Xerox PARC after playing with the bitmapped machines that later…

The Prehistory of a Technomad

From 1983 to 1991, I pedaled around the US on a computerized recumbent bicycle while living in the emerging online networks… in the process becoming the first “technomad” and sparking fascination with mobile connectivity. This page is the backgrounder for the collection of tales on this site, leading directly to my book, Computing Across America, its sequel,…

Harbor Digitizing and other Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the tools that have become part of the ship: 8mm & 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.)

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.