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.

Sailing at Camp Mountain Lake – 1965

My father, Ed Roberts, was an avid sailor for many years before I came along, and only after his passing did I discover the extent to which this permeated his life. As a child, I picked up a bit of nautical lore and sensed the allure on family vacations, but I didn’t really learn to…

Andrew the Robot at 1965 Louisville Regional Science Fair

My father (Ed Roberts, at left) was director of the Louisville Regional Science Fair in the 1960s, and this delightful photo is from his archives. The robot was named Andrew, and his builder, Ed Ramsey (center), went to school at Trinity, then went on to study electrical engineering at Purdue. The robot had magnetic hands and a tape-recorder…

1964 Science Fair Project – The Computer Plus

I have often joked over the years that I never outgrew science fairs… showing off the various technomadic machines at trade shows and other events was eerily reminiscent of those early years, complete with passion, demo effects, marketing, and procrastination followed by despair. I credit science fairs with giving me a lifelong project-oriented perspective, and…

Why we need new classrooms – The Dayman

I was but a wee third-grader here, and this is certainly far outside the mainstream geeky content of this archive, but I just couldn’t resist. In my first published article (Louisville Country Day School paper), I agitate for new classrooms at the Rock Creek Lane campus. Judging from the cartoon in the same issue, I…

Kite Flying Contest in 1959

My “most unusual kite” was a lovely airplane design called the Sky Flyer, now just a memory. For decades, it hung in the basement of the old homestead, gradually fading. In 2005, I sold a batch of old kites on eBay, and it included the box… shown here clipped out of the ancient image.

SPE – Society of Plastics Engineers – 1952 Pin Design

My father, Edward H. Roberts, was a lifelong member of SPE, designing plastic parts and ice cube trays for GE Erie Works in the 1940s and moving on to household refrigeration (AP5) at Appliance Park in Louisville in the early 1950s. Among his effects was a small batch of treasures from the Society of Plastics…

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 October 21, 2018: 795

New Microship Substrate

A huge event took place in 1995 — the abrupt transition to Microship 3.0. I had already abandoned the original kayak-based system and its variants, and a Puget Sound adventure on a small commercial trimaran (Fulmar) revealed many deficiencies that called for a larger boat. This article was posted to my broad Nomadness distribution list,…

Sailboat Power Console Fabrication

One of my frustrations with this boat has been difficult serviceability in a very critical place: power-distribution. This a region that needs to have easy access, excellent lighting, clear labeling, and a lack of clutter… not only is it otherwise maddening to make changes, but it can be a serious safety issue. (Thrice over the…

The Fulmar on Order

I spent this past weekend in Seattle, sailing a couple of Fulmar-19s around Puget Sound (about 25 miles on Sunday, ranging from reaching at 11+ knots to pedaling about 4 miles in dead calm), starting at Shilshole Marina and making two trips to Bainbridge Island. To cut to the chase, I wrote a check to…

Pedalear in El Mercurio – Chile

This piece in El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile) appeared during the year between BEHEMOTH launch and the start of the Microship project. I am grateful to my friend Barbara Murtaugh for translating the text to English.   Pedaling 182 Kilograms of Technology by Hernán Valdés El Mercurio, Santiago edition — September, 1992 Steve Roberts could participate in La Vuelta Ciclista…

Easy Rider – Home Office Computing

This was one of my favorite BEHEMOTH-era pieces, written by the insightful and prolific Daniel P. Dern . The photos were taken in North Carolina by Bob Ponzoni, and the magazine did a follow-up 6 years later. This was from the heyday of BEHEMOTH — not so much in bicycle-touring mode, but in its equally…

What is the Frequency – Newsweek

An early look at the emerging technology of wireless data… Full article is readable in the image above (control-clic  to open in new tab if you wish to embiggen), and the closing paragraph about my adventure is extracted below. by John Schwartz Newsweek – August 17, 1992 Ultimately, users will always need to temper their…

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.