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.

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). Below is his Phi Kappa Psi membership card from 1935 (Pennsylvania Kappa chapter).

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)…

Worcester High School – 1931 Graduation

My mother was in this class, and this program was in our family archives. I am parking it here in my timeline to help those looking for history of the Worcester High School of Commerce. (These are just scanned images, alas, not derived from searchable PDF… I didn’t want to have to edit all those…

Swarthmore High School Senior Play – 1931

Pomander Walk February 27, 1931 The gorgeous photo below is from Swarthmore High School… and I was fortunate enough to find the program as well in my father’s old papers (he was one of the stage managers). The photographer was Lewis Studios, and the 7×16-inch photo is remarkably well-preserved. I have scanned it and placed…

1929 Pennsylvania Learner’s Permit

Just a snapshot of a time long ago. This was my father’s learner’s permit, and the photo above is his first car (a 1910 Hupmobile).

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 23, 2020 item count: 882

The Prehistory of a Technomad

From 1983 to 1991, I pedaled around the US on a computerized recumbent bicycle while living in the emerging online networks… in the process becoming the first “technomad” and sparking fascination with mobile connectivity. This page is the backgrounder for the collection of tales on this site, leading directly to my book, Computing Across America, its sequel,…

Hustling the Scrounge – Juggling with Jef Raskin

At the very beginning of the BEHEMOTH project, I landed in Silicon Valley… and my first corporate host organism was Information Appliance, the playground of Jef Raskin (who started the Macintosh project at Apple in 1981, along with countless other fascinating creations over the course of his life). He offered lab space as 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…

Northwest Passage – Winnebiko II at Expo 86

by Steven K. RobertsBainbridge Island, Washington — September 11, 1986 Hello from Puget Sound! For a place so close to Metropolis, this wooded island is about as calm as can be imagined: the ferry to Seattle may just as well be transoceanic. People around here amble; they move slowly and stop to watch the sunset. A…

Sweetening the Bytesaver – Kilobaud Microcomputing

This was a quick little hack… way back in the day, a good and cheap tool for programming EPROMs in an S-100 bus computer was a board called the Bytesaver (by Cromemco). The only catch was that for every cycle, you had to shut the computer down and pull out the board. In a production…

LISP Comes of Age

In August 1980, I flew from Ohio to attend the Artificial Intelligence conference (AAAI) held at Stanford University, leading to my Byte cover story about AI. It was a huge adventure, connecting me with some incredible people… I have fond memories of an evening with astounding brains at Xerox PARC after playing with the bitmapped machines that later…

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.