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.

Kite Flying Contest in 1959

My “most unusual kite” was a lovely airplane design called the Sky Flyer, now just a memory. For decades, it hung in the basement of the old homestead, gradually fading. In 2005, I sold a batch of old kites on eBay, and it included the box… shown here clipped out of the ancient image.

SPE – Society of Plastics Engineers – 1952 Pin Design

My father, Edward H. Roberts, was a lifelong member of SPE, designing plastic parts and ice cube trays for GE Erie Works in the 1940s and moving on to household refrigeration (AP5) at Appliance Park in Louisville in the early 1950s. Among his effects was a small batch of treasures from the Society of Plastics…

Edward H Roberts invents lever-release aluminum ice cube tray

Ever wonder where the aluminum ice cube tray came from? When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s, my father, Edward H. Roberts, was a design engineer at General Electric… first at Erie Works, then at Appliance Park in Louisville where we moved when I was about 3. Obviously, ice cube trays weren’t…

Edward Roberts and Phyllis wedding – 1946

They met on the Manitoba during a Lake Superior cruise in August, and were married in November (much to the concern of parents and friends). Here, Phyllis (in white) was introducing her new beau to her sister Barbara and her husband, Frank (along with kids, Patty and Bruce). Somewhere near Boston: Edward, Phyllis, and the…

SS Manitoba – Lake Superior 1946

8mm film by Edward H. Roberts Digitized by Steven K. Roberts August 8-13, 1946 In August of 1946, a 33-year-old GE engineer named Edward H. Roberts stepped aboard the SS Manitoba for a Lake Superior vacation cruise… using his trusty 8mm movie camera to film scenery, crew, passengers, cargo handling, other ships, and a shore…

Swarthmore College 1946 Reunion

This was my father’s 10-year reunion after graduating from Swarthmore in 1936 as a mechanical engineer, and he captured about a minute and a half of home-movie footage… which I digitized 75 years later: Swarthmore College Reunion 1946 from Steven K Roberts on Vimeo. He has a little cameo at the top of the page,…

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. May 3, 2021 item count: 940

Air Force Basic Training

by Steven K. Roberts Lackland AFB May, 1971 (written in 2019) My odd decision to join the Air Force set an inevitable chain of events in motion, beginning with Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio. The date of this post is the beginning of this epoch in my life. Given that this was…

BEHEMOTH in San Diego Business Journal

I brought BEHEMOTH to the San Diego Electronics show, where there was a wave of local media coverage (including this TV footage), and existing local connection with one of my favorite companies, Qualcomm. Here is a bit in the weekly business newspaper. But can he pop a wheelie on it? by Bob Mazzeo San Diego…

San Diego BEHEMOTH Coverage – January 1992

During my speaking tour with BEHEMOTH (after the actual trip ended and just before starting the Microship project), I exhibited at the San Diego Electronics Show. One of my favorite sponsors was also in town (Qualcomm) and I made a few contacts at Scripps Institution of Oceanography that later led to 2 years at UCSD……

Homebrew 8008 Computer – 1974

An Early Personal Computer (complete schematics) by Steven K. Roberts October 31, 1974 Below are 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). The six…

Birth of the Technomads List Server

Over the years, the term “technomad” has undergone a variety of interpretations, beginning in the mid-80s as a playful re-parsing of my “high-tech nomad” moniker and eventually defining a very diverse community of location-independent workers who use networking tools to enable open-ended travel. During my BEHEMOTH epoch, I corresponded with hundreds of people drawn to…

Bikelab Report #14 – Post-Nomadic Stress Disorder

by Steven K. Roberts Silicon Valley, California December 31, 1991 “The difference between art and work is that work has a deadline.”—David Berkstresser Post-Nomadic Stress Disorder… and Quest for Humans Damn, I hadn’t anticipated this… but I should have. Working obsessively for a few years on BEHEMOTH and then abruptly relocating it to the shores of…

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.