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 additions with current dates, and may include articles about the boat project, dives with the ROV, photography, new toys, or other real-time content.

St. Clair McKelway Recommends Phyllis McCarthy to Barbizon

Phyllis McCarthy at the helm

My mother worked for the Powers Agency as a fashion model in New York back in the 1930s, and it was fascinating, while working through the old family papers, to discover a wealth of photos and other archives from this epoch of her life. My favorite, by far, is this gem… in which St. Clair…

Edward Roberts graduates Swarthmore – Phi Psi 1936

My father, third-from-left at rear, in the Phi Psi fraternity paper while graduating from Swarthmore (Mechanical Engineering). Below is his Phi Kappa Psi membership card from 1935 (Pennsylvania Kappa chapter). He was an avid photographer, and his old albums contain a few Swarthmorean treasures. Here are some faculty members he photographed for the yearbook (I…

Edward Roberts block-printed Christmas cards 1930s

My father was a DIY’er all the way, even back in his college days. In his old shop I found the wood-carving tools and blocks that he used to create these Christmas greetings in 1933 and 1934. The first celebrated his love for his first car, a 1910 Hupmobile: And the second carries images from…

Veterans Pedal Bicycle Built for Four

From the Philadelphia Public LedgerOctober 17, 1932 My father was Edward H. Roberts, and his dad was Chester Roberts… seated in the front of this quad cycle… This “quad” of long ago careened madly at yesterday’s reunion of the Veteran Wheelmen’s Association at the William Penn Inn at Gwynedd, propelled by (from left to right)…

Worcester High School – 1931 Graduation

My mother was in this class, and this program was in our family archives. I am parking it here in my timeline to help those looking for history of the Worcester High School of Commerce. (These are just scanned images, alas, not derived from searchable PDF… I didn’t want to have to edit all those…

Swarthmore High School Senior Play – 1931

Pomander Walk February 27, 1931 The gorgeous photo below is from Swarthmore High School… and I was fortunate enough to find the program as well in my father’s old papers (he was one of the stage managers). The photographer was Lewis Studios, and the 7×16-inch photo is remarkably well-preserved. I have scanned it and placed…

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

USAF Letter – Waveform Generator

1972 was a strange year for me… as a geeky 19-year-old college dropout in the Air Force, I was hardly on the sort of career path that I had imagined. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and I was stationed in Mountain Home AFB, Idaho… doing avionics maintenance for the F-111 fighter aircraft. Of…

Portrait of the Computer as a Young Art Form – RagTimes

I’m very fond of this piece from an obscure magazine published in Louisville in 1975-76. I believe only two issues were ever produced, and it was founded by Ernest Johnson, David Caudill, and friends. What I find fun about this is that it captured a glimpse of my life long before the bike, and even…

Mississippi Revisited

Computing Across America, Chapter 28 by Steven K. Roberts April 8, 1984 We ain’t got no accent, man, but ah kin shore tell yore from the noath. — Teenager in Vancleave, Miss. It was a land of spring green, little yellow flowers, and open, windy fields. I rode along with the sudden feeling of being…

Keesler AFB Tech School

by Steven K. Roberts June 1971 – February 1972 In one of the stranger epochs of my life, I arrived very sick on the bus from Lackland AFB in the summer of 1971. I was immediately admitted to the hospital, where I stayed for 3 weeks with severe mononucleosis and anemia. The doctors were aghast…

Geeky Dorm Room at Mountain Home AFB in 1972

Looking at these ancient photos now, I can see why I often got “written up” after room inspections. My bed, not shown here, was a crawl-in cave behind the workbench, and I had a cat living with me. The tall equipment rack was a homebrew HF transmitter with a pair of Eimac 100TH tubes in…

Tech Nomad in Wired

by Leander Kahney Wired – “Must Read” mini-feature June, 2000 While bazillionaire Jim Clark likes to escape it all and ponder the next new new thing aboard his $37 million tricked-out luxury yacht, Steve Roberts has a humbler nautical goal: to sail away in a one-man Microship. In late May, Roberts and his wife, Natasha…

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 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.

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.