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

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

Early Years

Homebrew 8008 Computer Schematics – 1974

I unearthed the original schematics of the homebrew computer I built long, long ago… an 8008-based machine that resides in the Computer History Museum (that link will open in a new window and show you four professionally done, zoomable photos). Before sending these six 11×17 hand-drawn documents to be with the machine, I scanned them…

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Geeky Dorm Room at Mountain Home AFB in 1972

Looking at these ancient photos now, I can see why I often got “written up” after room inspections. My bed, not shown here, was a crawl-in cave behind the workbench, and I had a cat living with me. The tall equipment rack was a homebrew HF transmitter with a pair of Eimac 100TH tubes in…

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My USAF Motorcycle Accident

I had an oddly contentious relationship with my superiors in the Air Force, long ago, when I was 19 and obsessively building a lab into my dorm room. In the middle of all that, a friend bought a new motorcycle and invited me to go for a ride… an adventure that led to a broken…

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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:…

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Oliver – 1968 Seneca HS Senior Play

One of the more formative and worthwhile endeavors of my high-school years at Seneca (Louisville, class of 1969) was this wonderful senior play — largely because the director, Eugene Stickler, was brilliant. I was Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, and sang a solo that still resonates in my head nearly a half-century later (“He’s a born undertaker’s mute.…

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Civil Air Patrol Communications – 1968

Besides my obsession with science fairs and random electronics geekery, my most visible “extracurricular activity” during high-school years was the Civil Air Patrol. Memory is hazy, but I believe I was in for three years… I think I became a lieutenant before dropping out during my senior year. These two photos are from 1968; I…

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Combo Mowing Rig – 1966 home movie

When I was a kid in Kentucky, we had 5½ acres… and it was pretty much my responsibility to keep it all mowed. Our old Bolens tractor had a reel mower attachment, but it was awful… so my father (Edward H. Roberts) designed a rig that used the tractor/sulky to pull a pair of properly offset…

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Morse Code Translator – 1966 Science Fair

As a budding ham and paleo-geek, I was naturally drawn to the idea of building an automatic Morse Code sender instead of, you know, actually learning to do it competently with a straight key! This was not my design, though it had a number of modifications; it ended up mounted on the side of my…

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Sailing at Camp Mountain Lake – 1965

My father, Ed Roberts, was an avid sailor for many years before I came along, and only after his passing did I discover the extent to which this permeated his life. As a child, I picked up a bit of nautical lore and sensed the allure on family vacations, but I didn’t really learn to…

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1964 Science Fair Project – The Computer Plus

I have often joked over the years that I never outgrew science fairs… showing off the various technomadic machines at trade shows and other events was eerily reminiscent of those early years, complete with passion, demo effects, marketing, and procrastination followed by despair. I credit science fairs with giving me a lifelong project-oriented perspective, and…

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