Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

The Library of Technomadics

(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

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.

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 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…

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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 it not…

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The Shacktopus Portable Power Beast

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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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.

Thanksgiving

Computing Across America, Chapter 14 by Steven K. Roberts Savannah, Georgia — November 26, 1983 Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard. — Tom Robbins, *Jitterbug Perfume* Ashepoo, South Carolina — the day before Thanksgiving. I stopped to take a much-needed break from the two-lane truck route known as US 17,…

The Outer Banks

Computing Across America, Chapter 13 by Steven K. Roberts November 22, 1983 There is no such thing as a pretty good omelet. — French proverb Not surprisingly, the first harbingers of the Atlantic Ocean were not fish smells and sea birds, but billboards — acres of billboards. An hour out of Norfolk and they were…

The Long, Lonesome Highway

Computing Across America, Chapter 12 by Steven K. Roberts November 14, 1983 The fickleness of the women I love is only equalled by the infernal constancy of the women who love me. –— George Bernard Shaw <pang> The first one came at Shepherd College, a small place situated about as far east as you can…

Nomad Prefers Pedaling to Settling Down – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Typical of on-the-road newspaper stories during the first year, this overviews the trip and curious technology, then mentions the “nationwide computer network.” Most folks then were not aware of emerging online culture and how it made a crazy adventure like this possible. by William Ruberry Richmond Times-Dispatch – November 12, 1983 Steve Roberts had some…

All He Owns Is on Wheels – Reston Connection

I love the closing line of this one:  “This man is very serious about his alternative lifestyle.” Ya think? grin I’m also curious about the Compunet network… someday I am going to write a spoof article comprised 100% of errors in other articles. Reston was a brief stop for me, with only a couple of…

The Towpath

Computing Across America, Chapter 11 by Steven K. Roberts November 6, 1983 Grub first, then ethics. — Bertolt Brecht I paused after the long climb on Maryland’s US40 to gaze at the sign and ponder the feelings a driver might experience when deciding whether to “ditch” his truck off the side of a mountain: ALL…

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. December 15, 2018 item count: 818

Life is a Beach

Computing Across America, Chapter 20 by Steven K. Roberts Key West, Florida — January 19, 1984 It’s better to burn out than fade away. — Neil Young Nothing had changed, but everything was different. I rode the familiar streets, taking a serpentine route to where I supposed the action was. I didn’t have the money to…

The Ultimate Blind Date

Computing Across America, Chapter 19 by Steven K. Roberts Key West, Florida — January 13, 1984 You can’t have paradise and a network node. — Charles McGuinness (Photo above by Barbara Bernstein, taken in the garden of Key West’s idyllic Merlinn Guest House as I signed in to check mail and upload a story.) I…

Life in No-Node Land

This is the print version of my online column on CompuServe (arguably, the first travel blog, though of course “blog” had no meaning yet). Here, I was blissfully immersed in Key West while my old Ohio home was freezing… the story was written on the beach in January, and references “the ultimate blind date” that…

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…

Trouble in Paradise

Computing Across America, Chapter 18 by Steven K. Roberts Key West, Florida — January 3, 1984 Where are you coming from? — Question heard all down the coast, contrasting sharply with the usual “Where are you going?” It had been a hard day. I was southbound at the 28th parallel, searching for a place to sleep.…

Nickel Generators

Photo above – Winnebiko II circa 1988, photo by Dan Burden In 1983, I abandoned all pretense of responsibility and hit the road on a bicycle. This was deeply alarming to my parents, since I was now 30 and a suburban homeowner; even though I was barely scraping by as a freelance writer, at least it…

Geek Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the exquisite tools that have become part of the ship: 8 & 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.