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.

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…

Reliable Sensing with Optoelectronics – Machine Design

This collection of optical sensing techniques fell out of some consulting I was doing in the mid-1970s, using embedded microprocessor boards to do machine control in industrial environments. I was particularly fond of this article, since their art department took my sheaf of hand-drawn sketches and turned them into a thing of beauty. I ended…

Daisy Wheel Printer Paleo-Graphics

A relic from an evening in 1977 (despite the title on the image), using the Cromemco Z-2D computer, BASIC, and the Diablo daisy-wheel printer micro-positioning. This hung on my wall for years. This is the system….

Cincinnati Milacron George – Your First Computer

This machine was introduced in 1977, and I was technically a dealer although I never sold one (which explains the Cybertronics label on the cover page). Prices ranged from $16K-70K, and it was a radical foray into the world of “small business computers” for a long-established company that had been focused on numerical-control machining and…

Cybertronics in Louisville

I’m guessing at the precise date of this as the original is lost, but it is almost certainly late 1976. The little insert with the computer photo in the upper right was added much later when I posted this ancient scan somewhere, and I am leaving it for context… but there is another post with much more detail…

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. February 20, 2019 item count: 846

The Winds of Change

Computing Across America, chapter 29 by Steven K. Roberts April 10, 1984 — Slidell, Louisiana Science is spectrum analysis; art is photosynthesis. — Karl Kraus When you live on a bicycle, certain things take on larger-than-life significance. Hills, for example, never mattered much when I drove a car, and back roads were just that: back…

The Winds of Change

I had a very enjoyable visit in Slidell, Louisiana in mid-April of 1984, leading to stories in the Daily Sentry-News as well as shorter pieces in the St. Tammany Times and Times-Picayune. My host, David Smith, gave me a tour of the National Weather Service office… resulting in this piece in my Online Today series…

Mississippi Revisited

Computing Across America, Chapter 28 by Steven K. Roberts April 8, 1984 We ain’t got no accent, man, but ah kin shore tell yore from the noath. — Teenager in Vancleave, Miss. It was a land of spring green, little yellow flowers, and open, windy fields. I rode along with the sudden feeling of being…

Poised for the Leap

Computing Across America, Chapter 3 by Steven K. Roberts September 27, 1983 Damn, that dude could survive a nucular war!— A Texan looking at the bike It was 2 a.m. on the morning of departure. I lay supine on hideous green sculptured pile, a murky carpet from the era of Doris Day that I had…

The First Steps

Computing Across America, Chapter 2 by Steven K. Roberts September 18, 1983  When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is…

The Idea is Born

Computing Across America, Chapter 1 by Steven K. Roberts Dublin, Ohio — March 15, 1983  What’s the matter Steve? You going to be a bum all your life?— Phyllis Roberts (my mother) NOTE: for background leading up to this, see The Prehistory of a Technomad. After being out of print for many years, the full text of…

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.