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

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

The Library of Technomadics

(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

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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The Little Cod Boat Wood Stove

The season is turning, that’s obvious. We’re pinned down in Deer Harbor with a frontal system coming through… 30-40 knots tomorrow, a brief respite on Sunday, another blast on Monday. We parked here to rendezvous with Andrew of Navigator Stove Works and get the black-enameled Little Cod wood stove installed. The timing couldn’t be better.…

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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

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs — May 4, 2018 Assembling a set of tools to explore the aquatic environment from a small boat: Macro and micro biology, treasures, benthic topography, & hull inspection One of the strongest motivations behind the Datawake project is to extend my human sensorium, letting me see into otherwise invisible realms. This…

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 Archives

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or just edits to existing material. Current article count: 707

Adventures in South Ecotopia

by Steven K. Roberts Eureka, California — November 28, 1986 After the 18 miles of insanity, we rode on to Arcata, “where the 60’s meet the sea,” and immediately began finding friends. Another of those surprises: there (and here, and here and there) prosper the values and attitudes that made the 60’s what they were—not…

Kinetic Madness 1987

by Steven K. Roberts Eureka, California — May 25, 1987 12,257 miles Eureka? Again? Is this a time-warp? If you’ve been following these tales for any time at all, you know we spent five weeks here over the winter… and you also know that we couldn’t have possibly pedaled back up the coast as fast as…

Industrial Design with Microcomputers book – local news

These are just a couple of minor bits, mostly here as historical date stamps since things weren’t obsessively blogged back in the early ’80s. Shortly before I took off on the bicycle adventure, I spent most of a year writing a Prentice-Hall textbook on microprocessor system design for industrial control applications. Having no idea there…

Snapshots of Absurdity

by Steven K. Roberts July 22, 1987 Columbus, Ohio — 12,497 miles I can’t believe I used to live here. I pass my old Dublin house with a twinge of embarrassment; I shake my head sadly at the “growth” that frantically replaces cool greenery with hot traffic jams; I watch with horror as old friends deteriorate.…

Computing Across Humboldt County

by Steven K. Roberts Eureka, California — December 15, 1986 We have just spent three weeks in Humboldt County with old friends—old friends whom we first met three weeks ago. Such is the time distortion of the traveling life. We’re living as a family of four, and the time before our arrival seems vague and…

Taking Care of Business

by Steven K. Roberts Palo Alto, California — February 23, 1987 11,687 miles Sitting at a desk in a cluttered room on a sunny California day is not unlike being chronically married and walking past a nude beach. Through this wide suburban window the sky is blue, the trees are green, and the shadows are…

Geek 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.)

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.