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.

Solar power can create new role for utilities – Kentucky Business Ledger

I remember playing with a photovoltaic system long ago and dreaming of a day when energy production would be completely distributed, on every rooftop, using the energy grid as a marketplace… buying and selling power as availability and needs dictate. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to have such fantasies, but talk about it was…

Appliance Computers – Mensa Kyosk

by Steven K. Roberts Kyosk (Kentuckiana Mensa) — August, 1979 Steve Roberts is the president of Cybertronics, Inc., a microprocessor engineering firm in Louisville. His articles about computers have appeared in Byte, Kilobaud, Creative Computing, Interface Age, EDN, ET/D, Electronics, and Machine Design. One of his roommates is a computer. To the arsenal of tools available…

Cybertronics Security Tour System

Cybertronics went through many phases, starting as a parts business, evolving into a computer store, then at last becoming a custom industrial control system design firm. These all overlapped, with me spread too thin most of the time, and in the later years it took the form of throwing myself into projects for clients while…

The Cromemco Z-2D – review in Kilobaud Microcomputing

During the late ’70s, I was making a living on the fringes of the burgeoning personal computer industry with a crazy mix of freelance writing, custom industrial control systems, surplus parts mail-order house, and computer store. The big lesson in this is that one can’t be all things to all people, but the activity that…

Simplify Microcomputer Software Development by Simulating an EPROM – EDN

I published this back in 1979, when I was building custom micro-based systems for Corning Glass, Seagram’s Distilleries, and Robinson-Nugent. As a lone developer, I could not afford $20K for an Intel In-Circuit Emulator (ICE), so I invented this device to simulate the ROM in a target system by plugging in a ribbon cable reflecting…

Fractal Music Composition – Creative Computing

Creative Computing cover, Feb 1979

This article resulted from some tinkering in my Z80 environment in the late 1970s, using a homebrew synthesizer for output (see photo below). I did not have any grounding in music theory, so the method described here was merely a starting point based on the recent publication of Fractal mathematics by Voss & Mandelbrot. Music…

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 17, 2018: 774

Homebrew 8008 Computer Schematics – 1974

I unearthed the original schematics of the homebrew computer I built long, long ago… an 8008-based machine that resides in the Computer History Museum (that link will open in a new window and show you four professionally done, zoomable photos). Before sending these six 11×17 hand-drawn documents to be with the machine, I scanned them…

High-Tech Nomadness – Las Vegas Review-Journal

by John Przybys Las Vegas Review-Journal — November 26, 1989 Like any wanderlust-stricken traveler, Steven Roberts meanders along the highways and byways of America carrying with him all of the equipment he needs. He’s got a tent. He’s got a sleeping bag. He’s got a portable stove. He’s got a recumbent bicycle with seven computers, a…

Microship Electronics Photo Essay

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic 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…

Cybertronics flyers from 1976

Way back in 1974, as a 22-year-old in Louisville, I started a small electronics business called Cybertronic Systems to help fund my growing microprocessor addiction and begin my escape from the employment treadmill that was already looming as a dangerous life habit. Within about a year, I was doing enough sales out of my apartment…

N4RVE Presentation at MicroHAMS 2009

I was invited to speak at the conference of the MicroHAMS Amateur Radio Club, and am grateful to Kenny Richards for filming my talk on the Microsoft campus in Redmond. The program for that event is on the club website, and below are my slides. This took place about a year after I acquired the…

An Excruciating Feghoot

This excruciating feghoot has been languishing in my old paper HUMOR file for decades, copied from a mid-70s issue of The Isolated M, a little ‘zine published for remote Mensa members by the late Harper Fowley of Louisville. I do not know the name of the author… I am only the dutiful scribe, slaving at…

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.