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 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.

Microship Electronics Photo Essay

by Steven K. RobertsNomadic Research Labs As I settle into Datawake, wrapping myself in a console of rackmount blinkies, I often reminisce about the obsessive Microship project that occupied me for almost a decade (1993-2002). This amphibian pedal-solar-sail micro-trimaran is still in my life, though really should find a new skipper one of these days…

Lightwaves from Datawake

Sunlight through hatch baubles

(with ongoing updates) One of the most wonderful things about living aboard is the endless variety of light… the ripples, reflections, colors, sparkles, and subtle hues that change day to day, moment to moment. This post is a small collection of luminous moments captured above, below, around, and inside Datawake, moored in the Port of Friday Harbor.…

Meet Datawake

Hello from the new floating lab! For nearly a year I was immersed in the sale of Nomadness (steel Amazon 44 sailboat) and the acquisition of Datawake — simultaneous exhausting projects involving boatyards, surveys, fractal to-do lists, complex logistics, and two wonderful guys who made boat buying and selling uncharacteristically pleasant (without brokers, and still friends after it’s all…

Streamlining the Server

Just as our lives accumulate cruft over the decades, so do our servers. The Nomadic Research Labs Internet presence began back in 1990 while I had the Bikelab at Sun Microsystems, then it hopped to Telebit, spent some time at Qualcomm, followed me to UCSD, and lived at a succession of hosting companies… picking up new tools as technology…

Transition to the Dark Side

This post marks a major transition in my life. Not only am I making the move from sail to the dark side, largely due to my back and other age-related realities, but I am also broadening the scope of this archive. Until now, I have thought of this as a museum of media coverage and…

Gonzo Engineering Slide Show at Google

I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight to Silicon Valley in May of 2015, a trip that included a week-long visit with a group at Google to discuss possibilities, a pilgrimage to the Computer History Museum to see BEHEMOTH, and an afternoon at the Maker Faire. The surreal week in the Googleplex began with my first…

Recent Additions to Archive

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or edits to existing material. June 9, 2020 item count: 896

A Tolkein of my Affection

This is one of my favorite moments in the whole 17,000-mile trip… unexpected magic. The story first appeared as Chapter 13 in the print edition of my online adventure narrative on CompuServe. by Steven K. Roberts Online Today November, 1984 (written August, 1984 in Lake City, CO) The land has become dramatic, fulfilling the promise of…

Cycling Speaker Writes on Road

I left the bike in Telluride and flew cross-country to speak at the Carolina Computer Expo in Charlotte. Here is a snippet from the book… A life online is a life outside the strictures of physics—at least the conventional physics that make a country seem big. The network is a village shaped like a map…

A traveler orders beer by computer – CompuServe CB

I remember this event with deep fondness… I often used to joke during my high-tech bicycling years that I was “an agent of Future Shock,” and this is one moment that epitomized that. The world was changing fast, and the tiny microculture of online denizens danced playfully in a whole different reality than the one…

The Complete Guide to Microsystem Management – Review

I published this book just before hitting the RESET button on the back of my head and taking off around the US on an open-ended technomadic bicycle adventure. It spun out of an article I wrote for Kilobaud called “Managing the Small System Environment,” discussing such things as related filing systems, backups, and other suggestions…

Valley Nurtures Software Ideas

Part of my column in USA Today while pedaling across the US…  by Steven K. Roberts USA Today October 18, 1984 NORWOOD, Colo. — We drove deep into southwest Colorado through the scenic San Miguel valley, past this little town and up a long unpaved hill. Rick Hollinbeck peered at the rutted road ahead, shrugged, downshifted,…

Biker Computes Across US – Scholastic News

Occasionally I rubbed elbows with the education community, and this little story triggered a few inquiries from teachers. I’m saddened by the front-page article about NASA’s quest for a teacher to fly on the Shuttle. Christa McAuliffe became that person, and was killed in the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986. Judging by the dateline…

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 Box by 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…

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

Harbor Digitizing and other Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the tools that have become part of the ship: 8mm & 16mm film digitizing, thermal imaging, 360 photography, ROV exploration, 3D printing, and system design...

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.