The Library of Technomadics
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.
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...
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.
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.
This column showcases new additions with current dates, and may include articles about the boat project, dives with the ROV, photography, new toys, or other real-time content.
A small group of impossibly red Ektachrome E2 slides emerged from the Deep Archives of my life, back when I was six-going-on-seven. We drove to Massachusetts to visit my mom’s sister and her kids in Pittsfield, then out to the Cape… and from there meandered back to Kentucky via the Blue Ridge Parkway with customary…
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.
This is a home movie of the 11th annual Glidden and Reliability Tour, filmed in 1956 by my father, Edward H. Roberts. 200 antique cars covered 450 miles during September 23-29, and it was hosted by the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA). The chairman was Dr. Wendell Stadle, and this year’s “hub-style” tour…
photo by Edward H. Roberts September 25, 1955 “Wait, Daddy, that’s a Kodak Pony 135. If you shoot wide open in this light, you’ll have depth of field issues with the yummy cake lettering unless you tweak the focal plane. Maybe you should stop down a bit… I promise I’ll hold still! In 67 years,…
At this tender age, I don’t have many archive posts… so I’m just using this page to park a few photos from my first year or two. These are from Erie, before we moved to the Louisville area; the high-chair pic above is colorized and dates from sometime in 1953. I was adopted, and one…
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…
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 30, 2023 item count: 1,077
This article spun out of the process of organizing the mess that had grown around my home computer system, but it had a delightfully unexpected result: shortly after publication, Prentice-Hall called and asked if I’d like to expand it into a book. Well, sure! I got to work on a more thorough discussion of the…
This little humorous bit of geek philosophizing fell out of my hours of staring at the front panel of my homebrew 8008 system – a central fixture in my life from 1974 onward, evolving, of course, as ever more robust machinery became available. I first published it in the April-June 1978 issue of the delightful…
My first book, written for technicians encountering service issues with those newfangled microprocessors, was published in October 1980. This fell out of a series I wrote for Electronic Technician/Dealer magazine beginning with the August 1978 issue, and covered what was then a rather esoteric subject… driven by the recognition of this transformative technology as it…
This small story in the local paper dates from less than a year after I moved to Columbus from Louisville, and is yet more than three years before I started on the Computing Across America adventure. I had just quit an engineering job, had a 4-month-old daughter, and was attempting to carve out a serious…
Computing Across America, Chapter 7 by Steven K. Roberts October 10, 1983 Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.— Oscar Wilde The three of us sat in the living room. Amy was exuberant, babbling effervescently and building impressionistic structures with Lego blocks. She looked at…
I’ve never pretended otherwise… I’m not a good employee. I’ve mostly managed to avoid it over the years, with a lack of economic stability to show for it, but what the hell… it has mostly been fun. This little snippet torn from an old notebook is near the end of my brief flirtation with being…
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
I have an online store linked above for technomadic publications and cards, along with a few special items of historical interest. (This is in addition to the Microship eBay store offering an eclectic mix of gizmology, nautical geekery, 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.
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.
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