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.

Oliver – 1968 Seneca HS Senior Play

One of the more formative and worthwhile endeavors of my high-school years at Seneca (Louisville, class of 1969) was this wonderful senior play — largely because the director, Eugene Stickler, was brilliant. I was Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, and sang a solo that still resonates in my head nearly a half-century later (“He’s a born undertaker’s mute.…

Civil Air Patrol Communications – 1968

Besides my obsession with science fairs and random electronics geekery, my most visible “extracurricular activity” during high-school years was the Civil Air Patrol. Memory is hazy, but I believe I was in for three years… I think I became a lieutenant before dropping out during my senior year. These two photos are from 1968; I…

Combo Mowing Rig – 1966 home movie

When I was a kid in Kentucky, we had 5½ acres… and it was pretty much my responsibility to keep it all mowed. Our old Bolens tractor had a reel mower attachment, but it was awful… so my father (Edward H. Roberts) designed a rig that used the tractor/sulky to pull a pair of properly offset…

Morse Code Translator – 1966 Science Fair

As a budding ham and paleo-geek, I was naturally drawn to the idea of building an automatic Morse Code sender instead of, you know, actually learning to do it competently with a straight key! This was not my design, though it had a number of modifications; it ended up mounted on the side of my…

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…

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. December 15, 2018 item count: 818

Nomadness Report – Issue 3

Our brief introduction to Shacktopus last week set the stage for something more substantial. We have discussed why it might be interesting to scatter data-collection nodes around a sailboat… but how do we intend to do it? And what do all those nodes (the pink diamonds in the image above) actually do? This issue is…

Trouble in Paradise

Computing Across America, Chapter 18 by Steven K. Roberts Key West, Florida — January 3, 1984 Where are you coming from? — Question heard all down the coast, contrasting sharply with the usual “Where are you going?” It had been a hard day. I was southbound at the 28th parallel, searching for a place to sleep.…

Love Versus the Unknown

Computing Across America, Chapter 17 by Steven K. Roberts Gainesville, Florida — December 23, 1983 The wanderer’s danger is to find comfort. — William Least Heat Moon, in Blue Highways Fevers, in a twisted way, are kind of fun. This one was: I lay without responsibility, making irrational comments and easing open an aching eyelid…

Thanksgiving

Computing Across America, Chapter 14 by Steven K. Roberts Savannah, Georgia — November 26, 1983 Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard. — Tom Robbins, *Jitterbug Perfume* Ashepoo, South Carolina — the day before Thanksgiving. I stopped to take a much-needed break from the two-lane truck route known as US 17,…

North Florida Snapshots

Computing Across America, Chapter 16 by Steven K. Roberts Gainesville, Florida — December 15, 1983 A variety of nothing is superior to a monotony of something. — Jean Paul Richter There it was at last: Florida. I could see the green sign far ahead on the last long stretch of Highway 17 in Georgia, and…

The Hostel in the Forest

Computing Across America, Chapter 15 by Steven K. Roberts Brunswick, Georgia — December 1, 1983 A guest sticks a nail in the wall even if he stays but one night. — Polish proverb I did not expect to find magic in Brunswick, Georgia. I wouldn’t have been surprised by love, lavish southern hospitality, or even a…

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.