Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts, N4RVE

The Library of Technomadics

Home movie digitizing, performed aboard our floating lab in the San Juan Islands...
(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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

Building a Heavy-Duty Piano Drawer

by Steven K. RobertsNomadic 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 not…

Read More

The Shacktopus Portable Power Cart

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…

Read More

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.

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 became a lieutenant before dropping out during my senior year. These two photos are from 1968; I was the…

Speech Compression in 1968

Photo above: STEVE ROBERTS, son of Household Refrigerator employee Ed Roberts, demonstrates his exhibit at the recent Louisville Regional Science Fair held at Jeffersontown High School. Steve’s project, “A New Method of Electronic Speech Compression,” won him six awards and a number two spot at the fair. This article appeared in the weekly General Electric…

1967 Constellation engine failure – and speech synthesis

In May of 1967, I was enroute to the International Science Fair in San Francisco aboard a Constellation operated by American Flyers airline. We had just crossed the front range of the Rockies and were flying over snowy peaks, and I was gazing out the window on the right side of the plane. Suddenly engine…

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…

Louisville Regional Science Fair – 1966

From the archives, here is my father — Edward Roberts, second from right — with two of the science fair winners along with his associates from the Louisville Engineering and Scientific Societies Council, which hosted the science fair. The students featured are Larry Goad of Waggener High School, and David Church. The project shown is…

Family photo – 13th birthday

Steven K. Roberts September 25, 1965 This is just one of those studio shots, probably taken at someplace boring like Sears in the Mall, showing the birthday boy with parents Edward and Phyllis. We were living in Jeffersontown, Kentucky – a suburb of Louisville, and I had just spent a few weeks at Camp Mountain…

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. January 17, 2020 item count: 878

High-tech nomad meets Macintosh

This is a tiny excerpt from the Computing Across America book, describing the moment I first met a Mac. I had seen the Dolphin and Dorado at Xerox PARC during an Artificial Intelligence conference in 1981… as well as the Star derivative for the business market on display at NCC ’81… but this was the…

A Nomad on Sabbatical

Computing Across America, chapter 30 by Steven K. Roberts April 26, 1984 — Hammond, Louisiana If you go down to Hammond, you’ll never come back…— The Roches It was to be a basic one-night college-town layover, nothing more. On the way to SLU I stopped at a bike shop and was advised to get in…

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…

Electronic Cottage on Wheels – Whole Earth Review

This has always been one of my favorite articles… it was an honor to publish in Whole Earth Review, produced by those brilliant folks in Sausalito who have brought us Whole Earth Catalogs and other treasures since 1968. The magazine ran from 1985-2002, and every issue was packed with ideas for self-sufficiency, new tools, and…

Westbound at Last

Maggie Victor on Linear Recumbent

by Steven K. RobertsGranby, Colorado — August 22, 1986 And so it begins. I am writing from a motel room in Colorado, Columbus far behind, the road suddenly a reality. Before I start telling stories, two bits of additional background are necessary. First, the general plan. We’re driving a van to Vancouver (then a car to…

Bikelab Report #9 – BEHEMOTH Bike Tech

David Berkstresser and Cecil be da Mill

Photo: David Berkstresser at Cecil, the Rockwell milling machine in the Bikelab. (Cecil be ‘da Mill) 3:15 AM. It’s becoming a familiar time — a favorite one, even. This time of day, there are few commercials on the radio to disrupt the back-to-back jams. There are no phone calls, few stray beeps from the SPARC,…

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.