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.

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…

1929 Pennsylvania Learner’s Permit

Just a snapshot of a time long ago. This was my father’s learner’s permit, and the photo above is his first car (a 1910 Hupmobile).

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 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 19, 2018: 790

Immersed in Santa Cruz

by Steven K. Roberts Santa Cruz, California — February 11, 1990 The photo above is by Maggie Victor, from post-earthquake Santa Cruz in 1990. Titled “Where old bicycles go to die,” it was published in the Nomadness journal as a sort of graphic counterpoint to the high-tech BEHEMOTH… though the project yet had so much uncertainty…

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…

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.