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 & video 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.

Andrew the Robot at 1965 Louisville Regional Science Fair

My father (Ed Roberts, at left) was director of the Louisville Regional Science Fair in the 1960s, and this delightful photo is from his archives. The robot was named Andrew, and his builder, Ed Ramsey (center), went to school at Trinity, then went on to study electrical engineering at Purdue. The robot had magnetic hands and a tape-recorder…

Harmonograph – Science Fair 1965

This was my third science fair project… in 8th grade. The full title was The Harmonograph’s Lissajous Curves Duplicated by Servomechanisms, and it won first place at Louisville Country Day School (General Division) as well as first place in the Kentucky State Science Fair (Junior Division). The only photo of the machine that remains is…

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…

Master Magnet – 1963 Science Fair

This is a throwback to 5th grade… my first science fair project, setting the tone for the next six years during which these were the only academic things that mattered. This AC induction magnet was not my design, but the fabrication and tinkering was hugely educational… I disassembled a transformer to get the laminations, then…

EUROPLASTIQUE 1962 – Paris

Here is a 4-minute look at the 1962 EUROPLASTIQUE expo in Paris. I was 9 years old at the time… and my father went to Europe on behalf of General Electric, where he was a refrigerator design engineer at Appliance Park in Louisville. He was a lifelong member of the Society of Plastics Engineers… and…

New Schwinn at Thornbury Toys – 1961

My 9th birthday featured a shiny new Schwinn bicycle, immortalized in this Polaroid from Thornbury Toys in St. Matthews (Louisville). Photographic history footnote: the back of the little folder containing this photo, describing the marvels of the Polaroid Land camera:

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. January 20, 2022 item count: 1,024

On the road and always on – Sunday Times Doors magazine

One of the phenomena that figured prominently in my ongoing media coverage was the very simple fact that I was in the same business. It was not uncommon to go into an interview with a reporter smirking at the bearded eccentric on a bicycle, then watch the dawning realization as we conversed: “Damn… this guy…

From BEHEMOTH to Microship – QST Review

QST has always been the quintessential magazine of amateur radio, predating me by decades. As such, like all other hams, I’m dabbling in things that have long kept paleogeeks up all night… probing the ether and chasing those elusive DX (long-distance) stations. Of course, some of the things I’ve done with radio have been a…

An Interview With A Mac-Using Pioneering Technomad

Conducted by Eolake Stobblehouse The Mac Observer April, 2001 Steven K. Roberts is famous for being the computer geek (sorry, genius) on a bicycle. In the eighties and nineties he travelled America on three heavily computerized and communicating bicycles, culminating in the technically impressive BEHEMOTH (Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine Only Too Heavy). After that Steven…

Microship Network Architecture drawing

This huge drawing (done in ConceptDraw) was my snapshot of the system during the heyday of its development, and it even lived on the server with image-mapped links in some of the boxes, intended to become a graphic front-end to the documentation library. A few notes are below; you can click it for a big…

BEHEMOTH – Computer History Museum

The long-term home for the bike, after 17,000 miles of adventure and hundreds of stage appearances in the years that followed, is the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. I love this place, and it’s truly worth a visit for lots of reasons besides BEHEMOTH… they have astounding treasures from all branches of the computer…

Echinoderm Envenomation and Microship System Design

Note: the photo above is not a black spiny sea urchin… I did not get a chance to take a picture of the one who got me, nor any of his Cozumel brethren. This is a green one, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, whom we invited aboard for a visit and close examination one day in 2018. The black…

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 Boxby 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 lives…

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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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YouTube and Vimeo Channels

I have a large collection of videos including media coverage of bikes/boats, speaking, digitized film treasures from long ago, gizmological delights, and a few rarities that clients have allowed me to post. See my YouTube and Vimeo channels.

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.