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.

Command your own Chris-Craft – 1943

Here is a little glimpse of the nautical dreams of 75 years ago… this was in the October, 1943 issue of YACHTING. The little sheaf of pages saved by my father, who was sailing a Star named Dabih in Lake Erie at the time, are a treasure… and this boat ad from World War II…

Swarthmore College 1941 Reunion

My father, Edward H. Roberts, carried his trusty 8mm movie camera all through the forties, and I have had the pleasure of digitizing much of his history from the decade before I came into existence. This one is a treasure… about three minutes of film from the Swarthmore alumni weekend, 5 years after his graduation.…

New York Election – 1940 Certificate of Literacy

scanned by Steven K. Roberts from family archives on Oct 6, 2016 When my mother was living at the Barbizon in 1939-40 (read this wonderful letter of recommendation), she took the test required by the state of New York under Section 166 of the Election Law… and received this certificate (click to embiggen): This is posted…

1940 – Liner America maiden voyage

My father, Edward Roberts, was aboard the maiden voyage of the liner America, which left New York on August 10, 1940. Here is his amazing 37-minute home movie of the adventure, including details of ship and passengers as well as shore excursions in St. Thomas, San Juan, Port-au-Prince, and Havana. Here he is with fellow…

Stern 1939 Appliance Catalog

In the late 1930s, my mother, Phyllis McCarthy, was working for the Powers Agency in New York City and living a high society lifestyle as a model. Six years before she met my father on a Lake Superior cruise, she did a photo shoot for this catalog by Stern & Company of Philadelphia. Timed for…

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…

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. June 10, 2024 item count: 1,091

Photos from 1981

Steve Roberts in 1981 clowning around with computer

From a binder of ancient negatives and matching contact sheets: The photo above is a goofy selfie from May, 1981, in my house in Columbus (old-fashioned EXIF date stamp in the form of a wall calendar from Radio Beijing). I was active on The Source as “wordy,” used DIALOG heavily for consulting, and was working…

Industrial Design with Microcomputers

An early textbook in microprocessor design written by Steven K. Roberts (1981) Prentice-Hall • ISBN 0-13-459461-4 I spent most of 1981 deeply immersed in this textbook project, which was not only the distillation of a few years of industrial control system design, but also an impassioned statement about where we were headed… including artificial intelligence.…

International Science Fair 1969 – Speech Synthesis

Science fairs, quite simply, kept me sane through those dark school years. The allure of the project, the deadlines, and having a justification for obsessive focus on things other than boring homework… these events shaped my life. Every year from 5th grade on, I had a science fair project, and this one was the last:…

A Model 100 Odyssey on a Recumbent

One of the key enabling technologies of my paleo-technomadic life (in addition to CompuServe, solar panels, and a recumbent bicycle) was my little Radio Shack Model 100 computer, a primitive laptop that was earth-shaking for its time. Made in Japan by Kyocera, it was really the first practical and affordable portable computer… though when I…

Life in the Desert

Computing Across America, chapter 46 by Steven K. Roberts Palm Desert, California December 31, 1984 Visits always give pleasure — if not the arrival, the departure Portuguese proverb It’s odd to be in a place where everything looks familiar, even though you’ve never been there before. At first, from the north, Las Vegas was just…

BEHEMOTH and Microship at ACM1 Expo

This was an amazing experience… hanging out with fascinating people (Alan Kay, Thad Starner, Dean Kamen, and other highly creative notables), displaying my toys in an interesting setting, a well-managed show… like the ACM97 show four years earlier, it was wildly educational. The only artifacts that remain are the gorgeous photo above showing the Microship,…

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.