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.

To Teach a Machine – Technology Review

I made a wonderful discovery around 1980 or so… as a geek/writer, I had a ticket to all the learning curves I wanted. All it took was landing magazine assignments to cover interesting conferences, and I could spend a week at a time in total immersion with the gurus of whatever field caught my fancy.…

Online Information Retrieval, Promise and Problems – Byte

One of my obsessions in the early 1980s was the emerging world of online databases… Lockheed’s Dialog system and others. Youngsters can think of this as paleo-Googlage, with very limited datasets (by today’s standards) centralized in corporate servers. This article in Byte covers some of the potential of these tools, and near the end takes…

Solving Air Filtration Problems – World Construction

This article was a bit of a departure from my usual tech-freelancing beat of the early 1980s… instead of artificial intelligence or microprocessors, it was about air filtration problems in the Middle East. As with many such arcane topics, I became ever more intrigued as I researched the non-trivial problems and their technological solutions… this…

Words’worth Documentation Services

by Steven K. Roberts ARE YOU CAUGHT IN A DOCUMENTATION BIND? If so, you’re not alone. It’s getting mighty hard to find engineers with good writing skills these days. Ever since the “education revolution” of the permissive 70’s and the engineering schools’ subsequent reluctance to demand competence in the humanities, a strong combination of verbal…

National Computer Conference – NCC 1981 – Byte

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…

Book Review – Principles of Artificial Intelligence – Nilsson – Byte

I suppose, in retrospect, it was a tad cheeky for me to presume to review this book by one of the luminaries in the AI field, but fortunately I had a co-author. Jim Jenal was immersed in the Computer Science world when we became friends at the 1980 Artificial Intelligence conference at Stanford, and his…

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. Item count as of July 14, 2018: 767

Solar cyclist pedals across nation – UT Austin

I have always loved this photo in my media binder from the first trip… it looks like I lost a leg! Given that I was occasionally asked if the bike is “something medical,” it fits right in. More seriously, it reminds me of the vigor of my youth, being a human engine day after day,…

Solar Wheels in Slidell

I had a most enjoyable visit in Slidell, Louisiana – including a visit to the National Weather Service center where my host worked. This led to a chapter in the book called “The Winds of Change.”  These two articles were published on the same day, and a longer one appeared earlier in the Slidell Daily…

High-tech nomad in Slidell – 1984

One of my fond memories of Slidell was getting a tour of the National Weather Service facility… which ended up becoming a chapter in the Computing Across America book. This is the local newspaper coverage of my visit to town in April, 1984… a couple of others are here. by Gilda Perkins Slidell Daily Sentry-News —…

Echinoderm Envenomation and Microship System Design

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…

Computer bicycle – Jennings Louisiana

This is quite a substantial article for an on-the-road interview; it was a 92-mile day between my overnight stops in Lafayette and Lake Charles. I like the way the author captured the sense of movement — not just a snapshot of me in transit but expressing the flavor of the whole adventure.  by Angela Gott Jennings…

Roughing it in Palo Alto

Photo: Sailing with Norm Goldblatt on San Francisco Bay.  Texting while Driving in 1987 This posting to my Computing Across America column on GEnie came near the end of the Silicon Valley layover between the Winnebiko II trek down the Pacific Coast and the jump to Ohio to resume through the Northeast and down the coast…

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.