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.

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…

Edward H Roberts invents lever-release aluminum ice cube tray

Ever wonder where the aluminum ice cube tray came from? When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s, my father, Edward H. Roberts, was a design engineer at General Electric… first at Erie Works, then at Appliance Park in Louisville where we moved when I was about 3. Obviously, ice cube trays weren’t…

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 November 6, 2018: 800

Changing the World in Mendocino

by Steven K. Roberts Mendocino, California — January 15, 1987 11,363 miles Nowhere is the infinite interconnectedness of human relationships so clear as in a succession of small coastal towns, isolated from the rest of the world—towns small enough to be interdependent, yet large enough to be vigorous; places rugged enough to discourage the lazy,…

Winnebiko 2 in Guinness Book of World Records – video

This cute little video was filmed in mid-July 1987 during the International Jugglers Association festival in Akron, and the piece aired as the closing segment of Show #121 of the Spectacular World of Guinness Records on February 6, 1988. The presenter was Shawn Southwick, and the fellow in the studio was David Frost. The tale…

BEHEMOTH at ACM97 Expo – Next 50 Years of Computing

This was a beautifully produced event, with a refreshing inversion of the usual trade-show marketroid demographic. It was like a grown-up Science Fair, with almost every exhibit a fascinating presentation of somebody’s techno-passion. Wearables, music, robotics, even a jeep with a built-in recliner made of powerful speakers that let you feel the music big-time… lots…

Full Circle, and Then Some

There is a kind of buzzing energy that comes from an abrupt course change… the apparent wind clocks around, the waves lap a whole new song on the hull, and the view off the bow is all different. That’s more or less what happened on the scale of my life over the past week. It…

First Microship Launch

This was an insanely intense time… with a film crew from Canada, we did the last-minute push to get the Microship ready for its first-ever launch, at the Sea Kayak Symposium in Port Townsend. Like trade-show deadlines, this had a galvanizing effect, compounded by being on camera. The piece opens with a wonderful video 3.5-minute…

Snapshots of Absurdity

Including a video of our appearance on The Spectacular World of Guinness Records… by Steven K. Roberts July 22, 1987 Columbus, Ohio — 12,497 miles I can’t believe I used to live here. I pass my old Dublin house with a twinge of embarrassment; I shake my head sadly at the “growth” that frantically replaces cool…

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.