The Library of Technomadics

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.

(Click title for our film digitizing business in Friday Harbor.)
(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

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.

In Death: Unchained – Literature Review

by Steven K. Roberts updated April 5, 2021 The more I engage with the virtual world of In Death: Unchained, the more I see things from the point of view of the characters. Monks, knights, abominations, maddening cupids, banshees, skeleton archers, ghosts, incubi, orphans, and bosses… all have stories to tell. I decided to become…

The Consoles of my Life

Over the years, there has been one stylistic constant in my pursuit of übergeekery: equipment consoles. It started one 1964 afternoon in Louisville, when this skinny 12-year-old electronics-obsessed geeklet got a peek at how the big boys do it. Via a ham radio friend, I had wangled an invitation to visit the avionics maintenance shop…

1974 Vic Franck Delta 50

Floating Technomadic Lab/Office for Sale! Recent posts in this wide-ranging archive have covered my move to the “Dark Side” – selling my Amazon 44 named Nomadness on a quest for floating lab space. I bought this gorgeous Delta 50 in early 2016, named her Datawake for the “wake of data” streaming astern, then spent four…

Digitizing Our Lives

Coronavirus will echo for decades. Everything was normal… then suddenly we were on sabbatical from our own timelines, routines disrupted by intimations of mortality… priorities shifted, values inverted, unspeakable things whispered, stats obsessively reloaded. We watch the news in horror, contemplate de-facto partnerships, ache at disconnections, and muse about the messes we will leave behind…

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…

Recent Archive News

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or edits to existing material. March 17, 2021 item count: 938

High Tech Nomadic – MacDigest

This publication of the Los Angeles Macintosh User Group was a great venue for this general overview of the whole bike epoch (which also appeared in similar form in my various self-published pieces like the later From BEHEMOTH to Microship book). With a Mac Portable embedded in the bike’s console, controlled by ultrasonic head mouse…

Bicycle in Dataspace – Discover Magazine

Steve Roberts with BEHEMOTH - Discover and Teekniikan Maailma

This one was a hoot, and really captured the buzz of the developing BEHEMOTH project at the Bikelab hosted by Sun Microsystems (in building MTV4). The photo session was amusing… that big green shot spanning the first two pages was a complex setup by Christopher Gardner, with a smoke machine and fancy lights all arrayed…

Inventor Rolls Out World’s Smartest Bike – San Francisco Chronicle

This piece appeared during the final push at the Bikelab in preparation for RAGBRAI, which in retrospect was kind of a crazy idea (testing 3.5 years of work on a hugely heavy machine in the company of 10,000 cyclists cranking out hundred-mile days… what could possibly go wrong?). But public deadlines are a good thing,…

Taking Mobility to the Limit – Cellular Business

Steve Roberts aboard Winnebiko II on cellular phone

This article came at a pivotal time in both the evolution of the cellular industry and the design of my bike. Added to the Winnebiko II for testing, the Oki 491 phone did so well that it became fully integrated into BEHEMOTH… even to the point of deriving an RJ-11 phone line and distributing it…

The BEHEMOTH FAQ

by Steven K. Roberts Silicon Valley, California June 22, 1991 “You know you’re going slow when you’ve got dead bugs on the BACK of your bike.” — the always-quotable David Berkstresser, watching me trundle up his driveway during a test ride. It’s getting close. Suddenly all priorities have changed — the things that distracted me last…

Peddling Technology

On the eve of departure from the Bikelab at Sun Microsystems…  by Scott Leibs Information Week June 17, 1991 “People” section Steven Roberts is getting ready for a bike ride. It won’t be a typical jaunt, but then nothing about Roberts is typical. In mid-July, he will cross the state of Iowa on a bicycle that…

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…

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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 the drawer…

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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…

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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.