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.

Baudot Teletype Interface – Electronics

Teletype Interface article

This was my first published article, and fell out of my work on the homebrew 8008 system that is now in the Computer History Museum (that link includes four detailed photos). It’s basically a one-way simple UAR/T, though those devices were pricey back then… and the design induces the host micro to wait while a…

Geeky Dorm Room at Mountain Home AFB in 1972

Looking at these ancient photos now, I can see why I often got “written up” after room inspections. My bed, not shown here, was a crawl-in cave behind the workbench, and I had a cat living with me. The tall equipment rack was a homebrew HF transmitter with a pair of Eimac 100TH tubes in…

My USAF Motorcycle Accident

I had an oddly contentious relationship with my superiors in the Air Force, long ago, when I was 19 and obsessively building a lab into my dorm room. In the middle of all that, a friend bought a new motorcycle and invited me to go for a ride… an adventure that led to a broken…

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…

Seneca High School 1969 Commencement

I’m just parking this here in the archives to help anyone who is researching Seneca High School history (Louisville, Kentucky)… This was my graduation year. My high-school career was unremarkable; I was Mr. Sowerberry in Oliver, the superbly produced senior play, and helped a bit with producing the student paper, but otherwise, my interests were…

International Science Fair 1969 – Speech Synthesis

Science fairs, quite simply, kept me sane through those dark school years. The allure of the project, the deadlines, and having a justification for obsessive focus on things other than boring homework… these events shaped my life. Every year from 5th grade on, I had a science fair project, and this one was the last:…

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 September 15, 2018: 788

Call to Nomadness

This was an earnest attempt to change the fundamental nature of my adventure… I had visions of building a community of fellow wanderers. The possibilities were enchanting, and this document generated a lot of interesting correspondence. I still love this idea; even now, nothing would make me happier than to spark a technomadic flotilla of…

Passion

Above: the 580-pound BEHEMOTH bicycle, circa 1991, somewhere in North Carolina. This was the final bike version, and was a 3-year project based in Silicon Valley. (photo by Bob Ponzoni) by Steven K. Roberts Silicon Valley From Bikelab Notes #8 — March 20, 1991 You know, sometimes this whole thing seems deliciously insane. Off the…

Announcement of Call to Nomadness

By the beginning of 1990, on the heels of the Santa Cruz earthquake and before moving over to the Sun Microsystems lab in Silicon Valley, I was trying to build energy for the upcoming adventure by finding others to form a technomadic community. This went out to my Nomadness mailing list: FROM:  Steven K. Roberts,…

BEHEMOTH at WESCON with OrCAD – 1990

This is a work-in-progress moment with BEHEMOTH, during the Bikelab epoch at Sun Microsystems. The original Zzipper fairing is still on the console (not the custom fiberglass one), and systems were still being built. I was creating all the bike documentation with OrCAD, which I absolutely adored… I still treasure the binder with drawings at…

The Robotics Revolution – Mechanix Illustrated

During my years of freelance writing before embarking on a life of technomadic adventure, my favorite mode of travel involved going to industry and academic conferences and trade shows, then writing about them for a variety of markets. Often this involved hobnobbing with those developing new technologies and then slanting my article towards those who…

High tech bike trekker passes through Spring Hill

This was a fun encounter – I was pedaling up the dreaded Highway 19 after sailing with the bike from Key West to Clearwater. Suddenly, just south of Weeki Wachee, a fellow standing on the side of the highway began waving his arms and calling, “Stop! Stop! My boy called and said I had to…

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.