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 the drawer…

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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.

Simplify Microcomputer Software Development by Simulating an EPROM – EDN

I published this back in 1979, when I was building custom micro-based systems for Corning Glass, Seagram’s Distilleries, and Robinson-Nugent. As a lone developer, I could not afford $20K for an Intel In-Circuit Emulator (ICE), so I invented this device to simulate the ROM in a target system by plugging in a ribbon cable reflecting…

Fractal Music Composition – Creative Computing

Creative Computing cover, Feb 1979

This article resulted from some tinkering in my Z80 environment in the late 1970s, using a homebrew synthesizer for output (see photo below). I did not have any grounding in music theory, so the method described here was merely a starting point based on the recent publication of Fractal mathematics by Voss & Mandelbrot. Music…

Polyphony Made Easy – Byte

Keyboard interface with cat

One of my early interests in “the computer hobby,” as it was called in the 1970s, was music composition and synthesis. My homebrew 8008 system (October 1974) was immediately paired with a Walsh-function waveform generator and top-octave synthesizer, and as those early heady years passed I turned my attention often to music tools. This article…

Copy/Sort/Search: 8080 Data Manipulation

This article fell out of my first real consulting gig. I was 26, and had gotten a bit of local notoriety for my 1974 homebrew computer system and other projects, and somewhere along the way I ended up landing a contract with Honeywell to do the HVAC management system for the University of Louisville Campus.…

Lament for the Semi-Sentient

Long ago, I wrote this little humor piece… with fantasies about my homebrew computer developing intelligence and getting bored with sitting around in a keyboard wait loop. This was its first publication, and it later appeared in the Mensa Bulletin (June, 1979) and InfoWorld (November 10, 1980). The artwork below was done by David Caudill…

Increasing Solenoid Speed – Machine Design

Back in the late 1970s, I was blending my consulting business with a budding career as a freelance writer. One of my rules for myself was that every project had to yield at least one published article, and this one fell out of a machine that I built for Robinson-Nugent, a manufacturer of IC sockets…

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. April 4, 2019 item count: 850

Echinoderm Envenomation and Microship System Design

Note: the photo above is not a black spiny sea urchin… I did not get a chance to take a picture of the one who got me, nor any of his Cozumel brethren. This is a green one, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, whom we invited aboard for a visit and close examination one day in 2018. The black…

Computing Across America review – Human Power IHPVA

Human Power - IHPVA technical journal logo

It was a great honor to see this review of my book by someone I’ve admired for years… David Gordon Wilson of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association. He and Chester Kyle can be credited with starting the recumbent bicycle movement, and he is also the author of the brilliant Bicycling Science. by Dave Wilson…

Universal Wirelist Conversion Program

For many years I had a simple rule: all projects, whether hobby or consulting, had to have at least one associated magazine article. I didn’t always manage to accomplish this, but did so here; back in 1978, I landed an industrial control gig for Robinson-Nugent, and had to build a machine that would do insertion/withdrawal…

William Calley Conviction Photo

Here’s a random bit of history from the archives, unrelated to everything else on this site… picture me as a 19-year-old hippie geek in 1971, working for Sylvania as a technician installing Autovon central office telephone equipment at Fort Benning during the Vietnam war. Morbidly fascinated by the My Lai massacre trial, where William Calley…

The Fulmar Adventure

There was an interlude in the Microship project that I remember fondly… a brief foray into an off-the-shelf boat, simple systems, and emphasis on adventure over geekery. After a year or more of over-engineering, I bought a Fulmar-19 to fast-track our way to the planned expedition, and this is the rollicking story of the maiden…

BEHEMOTH – Computer History Museum

The long-term home for the bike, after 17,000 miles of adventure and hundreds of stage appearances in the years that followed, is the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley. I love this place, and it’s truly worth a visit for lots of reasons besides BEHEMOTH… they have astounding treasures from all branches of the computer…

Harbor Digitizing and other Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the tools that have become part of the ship: 8mm & 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.