ConneXions – Computing Across America review
This short commentary on my book was published the month after the author’s ConneXions piece about BEHEMOTH.
Computing Across America:
The Bicycle Odyssey of a High-Tech Nomad
by Steven K. Roberts
Learned Information, Inc. (Medford, NJ: 1988)
347 pp., ISBN 0-938734-18-0
reviewed by Carl Malamud
Volume 6, Number 9
Normally, we don’t review books that are four years old, but the marketing on the book Computing Across America was so bad that we’re only just now learning of its existence. The author of this unusual book is Steve Roberts, aka “The Guy with the Bike.”
You know, the bike you read about in USA Today and saw at INTEROP 92 Spring or on The Phil Donahue Show. That’s right, the 580-pound, multiprocessing, multi-functional contraption that contains more computer equipment than your average Novell dealer. (For a detailed description of the bike, see “The Guy With the Bike” in ConneXions, Volume 6, No. 8, August 1992).
Ever wonder how something this evolved ever got started? Computing Across America is Steve Roberts’ narrative of how he quit his life in suburban Ohio, sold everything and hit the road. A change in lifestyle is certainly nice every now and again, but why, you might ask, a recumbent bicycle with a head mouse?
In 1983, in a moment of suburban mid-life angst, Steve Roberts asked himself what he liked most in life. Bicycles, computers, and women led the list. Mowing the lawn and sitting in cubicles weren’t on the list.
The natural answer was to get a recumbent bicycle, buy one of the new laptops, and pedal 10,000 miles looking for coeds. In this fascinating book, we see Roberts go through an evolution, learning how to lead his life the way he wants.
Technically, Roberts also evolves, taking the concept of the laptop computer on a bicycle and extending it to a solar-powered Winnebiko, an example of engineering at its best. Today, the Winnebiko has undergone another metamorphosis and has become the BEHEMOTH (Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine…Only Too Heavy).
Computing Across America tells you how this manic pedal person got started. Roberts is now hard at work on a new book, to be published by Doubleday, and if the humorous and elegant writing style of Computing Across America holds, the new book will be a big hit.
Carl is also the author of Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue, which includes an account of his visit to Nomadic Research Labs as well as some fascinating glimpses of early Internet history. This one is a keeper:
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