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…

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 it not…

Read More

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…

Read More

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.

St. Clair McKelway Recommends Phyllis McCarthy to Barbizon

Phyllis McCarthy at the helm

My mother worked 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 McKelway, the managing editor…

Edward Roberts graduates Swarthmore – Phi Psi 1936

My father, third-from-left at rear, in the Phi Psi fraternity paper while graduating from Swarthmore (Mechanical Engineering)

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…

Veterans Pedal Bicycle Built for Four

From the Philadelphia Public Ledger October 17, 1932 My father was Edward H. Roberts, and his dad was Chester Roberts… seated in the front of this quad cycle…   This “quad” of long ago careened madly at yesterday’s reunion of the Veteran Wheelmen’s Association at the William Penn Inn at Gwynedd, propelled by (from left…

Swarthmore High School Senior Play – 1931

Pomander Walk — February 27, 1931 This gorgeous photo is from Swarthmore High School… and I was fortunate enough to find the program as well in my father’s old papers (he was one of the stage managers). The photographer was Lewis Studios, and the 7×16-inch photo is remarkably well-preserved. I have scanned it and placed…

Gyroscopic Action – A Menace to Aviation

Gyroscopic Action - A Menace to Aviation

I was adopted, and my biological grandfather was an interesting fellow named Ralph M. Pearson. In his younger days, he was involved in aviation engineering, then traveled the Great Loop around the eastern US in a homemade boat before devoting his life to art. In his later years, he produced countless etchings (many with Southwest…

Recent Additions to Archives

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or just edits to existing material. Current article count: 726

Edward H. Roberts designs Navy rocket launcher tubes

Caption to above: Certificate and lapel emblem are awarded to Edward H. Roberts, refrigerator cabinet engineering section, for his contributions to research and development of plastics products for the Navy during the war. The award was made in Pittsfield March 25, by Captain Ralph O. Phillips, Naval Ordnance, Washington, D. C, shown congratulating Roberts. In…

Son of a Sailor

This update is a bit of a divergence from my usual breed of randomness, which typically has something to do with S/V Nomadness, development facilities, technomadic gizmology, or random noodlings triggered by any of the foregoing. I’d like to dedicate this posting to my father, Ed Roberts, who passed away in 2005. The trip to…

Movie – 1971 home visit before Air Force

In 1971, I made a strange decision… after about a year of being on my own, working as a deckhand on barges and central-office phone system installer on Army bases, I thought I’d join the Air Force as a way to get a degree (since I had cut the cord by dropping out of college…

BEHEMOTH on NPR All Things Considered with Noah Adams

This was a delightful interview, and I wish I had taken a photo of Noah sitting on BEHEMOTH, holding a tape recorder and chatting with me. I had come to Washington DC to exhibit at Interop Spring (photo with Vint Cerf), and somehow ended up visiting NPR. Noah was so relaxed that my own nervousness…

Freewheeling Lifestyle – Charleston

The gorgeous photo above was taken by one of our hosts, Karen Greene, during our stay on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston… it became the cover of the Feb 1988 issue of 73 Magazine, with an article about the ham-radio aspects of the adventure. by Barney Blakeney Charleston Post-Courier — December 8, 1987 His 6-foot-4-inch frame…

High Trek – Charlotte

This visit to Hand Held Products was the beginning of a consulting relationship that segued into an interesting friendship. It was one of the rare instances of “technology transfer” from the bike project (packet radio), and it was fun to make a small contribution to new product development. I had a piece in the same paper…

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.