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.
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…
The day after they were married in New York, my parents, Phyllis and Ed, flew to Bermuda for their honeymoon. Family archives include a few treasures from this 1946 romantic adventure, and this page is devoted to them… beginning with a 16-minute home movie taken by my dad: Here was their ticket on a Pan…
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) at the Little Church Around the Corner. Here, Phyllis (in white) was introducing her new beau to her sister Barbara and her husband, Frank (along with kids, Patty and Bruce).…
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…
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,…
As I digitize the massive film library of my father, Edward H. Roberts, I find lots of glimpses of events from times long past… often wishing I had been able to do this while he was still alive to answer questions. This is one of those. Through the 1940s, he actively raced his Star-class sailboat,…
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. March 23, 2023 item count: 1,080
by Steven K. Roberts Technology Review January, 1982 My professional obsession in the early eighties was the intersection of the breathless microcomputer scene, cognitive science, the overhyped AI world, and publishing. I meandered through these communities as a geek dilettante, fueled by magazine assignments and my love of academic conferences… working on my textbook, sniffing…
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…
My favorite geek-freelancing activity back in the early ’80s was heading off to a conference or trade show, then spinning tales of new technology for the readers of my favorite magazines. This one was at the other end of some spectrum from the Artificial Intelligence conference that led to my cover story in the same…
Photo above: my girlfriend and I put a mobile office in a 27-foot Travco motorhome, and were preparing to take the freelance writing/consulting business on the road by Steven K. Roberts November, 1981 ARE YOU CAUGHT IN A DOCUMENTATION BIND? If so, you’re not alone. It’s getting mighty hard to find engineers with good writing…
These were created for the Nomadness print journal while I was working on BEHEMOTH in the Bikelab hosted by Sun Microsystems.
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…
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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