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. 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…

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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…

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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.

SPE – Society of Plastics Engineers – 1952 Pin Design

My father, Edward H. Roberts, was a lifelong member of SPE, designing plastic parts and ice cube trays for GE Erie Works in the 1940s and moving on to household refrigeration (AP5) at Appliance Park in Louisville in the early 1950s. Among his effects was a small batch of treasures from the Society of Plastics…

Edward H Roberts invents lever-release aluminum ice cube tray

Ever wonder where the aluminum ice cube tray came from? When I was a kid in the ’50s and ’60s, my father, Edward H. Roberts, was a design engineer at General Electric… first at Erie Works, then at Appliance Park in Louisville where we moved when I was about 3. Obviously, ice cube trays weren’t…

Edward Roberts and Phyllis wedding – 1946

As soon as the wedding was over, they flew to Bermuda for their honeymoon… here is my father’s 8mm movie of the adventure: The Engagement This is sweet… my father’s parents, Chester and Abby Roberts of Swarthmore, wrote this letter to Phyllis as soon as they were notified of the engagement. A colorized photo follows…

SS Manitoba – Lake Superior 1946

8mm film by Edward H. Roberts Digitized by Steven K. Roberts August 8-13, 1946 In August of 1946, a 33-year-old GE engineer named Edward H. Roberts stepped aboard the SS Manitoba for a Lake Superior vacation cruise… using his trusty 8mm movie camera to film scenery, crew, passengers, cargo handling, other ships, and a shore…

1946 Memorial Day Dismasting in Erie

As I digitize the massive film library of my father, Edward H. Roberts, I find lots of glimpses of events from times long past… often wishing I had been able to do this while he was still alive to answer questions. This is one of those. Through the 1940s, he actively raced his Star-class sailboat,…

Edward H. Roberts designs Navy rocket launcher tubes

Caption to colorized 1946 photo above: Certificate and lapel emblem are awarded to Edward H. Roberts, refrigerator cabinet engineering section, for his contributions to research and development of plastics products for the Navy during the war. The award was made in Pittsfield March 25, by Captain Ralph O. Phillips, Naval Ordnance, Washington, D. C, shown…

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. November 9, 2019 item count: 873

The Quill Weather Vane of Swarthmore College

When I traveled to Louisville in 2005 to shut down the old family home after my father’s death, I had no idea of the depth and complexity of the history I was about to inherit. Suddenly I was the lone curator of artifacts spanning centuries… families, Quakers, Swarthmore, GE, the 1930s modeling scene in New…

The BEHEMOTH FAQ

by Steven K. Roberts Silicon Valley, California June 22, 1991 “You know you’re going slow when you’ve got dead bugs on the BACK of your bike.” — the always-quotable David Berkstresser, watching me trundle up his driveway during a test ride. It’s getting close. Suddenly all priorities have changed — the things that distracted me last…

Microship Hub Overview

Microship Control System

It is both delightful and scary to have so many knowledgeable people on this mailing list! No technical error in my tales goes unreported… in response to last week’s April Fools issue (#101), I received detailed explanations about GPS encoding from both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs and the Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at…

Bike Puts Hi-Tech on Road – Watertown Daily Times

This is an Associated Press story, yet I believe its distribution was regional to central New York… the local angle is my recent stop in Jamesville (near Syracuse, just down Interstate 81 from Waterwown). I stayed a few days there with my old friend Jean Polly and her family, and was on one of my…

High-tech Nomad Follows His Heart

A visit with dear friends in Jamesville, New York, led to a flurry of media coverage including this piece from Syracuse and the one below from Ithaca. I had just begun a media/speaking tour with BEHEMOTH in a mobile lab, and had just finished filming a Phil Donahue episode in New York City. I was…

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…

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.