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...

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.

(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

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.

New York Election – 1940 Certificate of Literacy

scanned by Steven K. Roberts from family archives on Oct 6, 2016 When my mother was living at the Barbizon in 1939-40 (read this wonderful letter of recommendation), she took the test required by the state of New York under Section 166 of the Election Law… and received this certificate (click to embiggen): This is posted…

Havana Scenes from 1940 – Liner America

My father, Edward Roberts, was aboard the maiden voyage of the liner America, which left New York on August 10, 1940. I have some movies he took of life aboard as well as the shore visits, and will get them converted and uploaded soon… but in the meantime, here are a couple of images to…

St. Clair McKelway Recommends Phyllis McCarthy to Barbizon

Phyllis McCarthy at the helm

My mother worked as a fashion model in New York back in the 1930s, and it was fascinating, while working through the old family papers, to discover a wealth of photos and other archives from this epoch of her life. My favorite, by far, is this gem… in which St. Clair McKelway, the managing editor…

Edward Roberts graduates Swarthmore – Phi Psi 1936

My father, third-from-left at rear, in the Phi Psi fraternity paper while graduating from Swarthmore (Mechanical Engineering)

Edward Roberts block-printed Christmas cards 1930s

My father was a DIY’er all the way, even back in his college days. In his old shop I found the wood-carving tools and blocks that he used to create these Christmas greetings in 1933 and 1934. The first celebrated his love for his first car, a 1910 Hupmobile: And the second carries images from…

Veterans Pedal Bicycle Built for Four

From the Philadelphia Public LedgerOctober 17, 1932 My father was Edward H. Roberts, and his dad was Chester Roberts… seated in the front of this quad cycle… This “quad” of long ago careened madly at yesterday’s reunion of the Veteran Wheelmen’s Association at the William Penn Inn at Gwynedd, propelled by (from left to right)…

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

Westbound at Last

Maggie Victor on Linear Recumbent

by Steven K. Roberts Granby, 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…

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…

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.