The Library of Technomadics
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.
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...
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.
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.
This column showcases new additions with current dates, and may include articles about the boat project, dives with the ROV, photography, new toys, or other real-time content.
This beautifully written 2023 article by Lucas Winzenburg in Bikepacking captures the flavor of my 17,000-mile adventure from the technological and cultural perspective of 40 years down the road. It has sparked considerable discussion and a few interview requests about digital nomad history, and I am honored to provide this link to the source. The…
Here in late 2022, as a sort of technomadic swan song, I have embarked on a new adventure in mobile geekery. There will be no pedaling this time, nor is this another floating extravaganza of boat hacking and nautical gizmology. Instead, I’m creating a 48-foot mobile laboratory packed with the tools of my trade… digitizing…
Shelter Publications has been producing dreamy wish books of tiny homes and efficient nomadic tools since 1973, and if you have ever fantasized about taking off in a home on wheels, you almost certainly know his work. Rolling Homes is Lloyd Kahn’s latest volume, published in August 2022, and I am delighted that it includes…
This site in Spain posted a story about my digitizing activities, and quite surprised me with a flurry of web traffic and a few inquiries about home movie archives. According to Google Translate, the title reads, “The veteran technomad who could digitize any audio, video, film or photo format.” Since this is such a good…
By Kelley Balcomb-Bartok Journal of the San Juan Islands July 19, 2022 Located in an unassuming building in Friday Harbor is a magical place inhabited by a wizard of technology bringing history back to life for clients and friends. Steven K. Roberts is his name, digitizing old films, videos and slides is his game. Harbor…
It is a treat, here in late 2021, to see this article make a splash on that newfangled “social media.” How far we’ve come in a third of a century… with the essential tools to enable a truly mobile lifestyle now in every pocket and backpack. When I took off on a “computerized recumbent bicycle”…
Recent Archive News
Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or edits to existing material. March 23, 2023 item count: 1,080
This short photo/caption piece in Stars and Stripes, the news service of the US Military, appeared shortly after my speaking gig at the Mobile World conference and expo in Boston (Hynes Auditorium) in early March of 1993. Steven Roberts sits on his custom-made, 105-speed, computerized bicycle at the Mobile World Exhibition in Boston on Wednesday.…
Yarrhhh… I remember this feeling from the bicycling epoch: adventures stack up, accumulating in my brain so fast that they merge into generalities if I don’t hit the PAUSE button and do some writing. “Had an amazing time over the past week” is hardly sufficient commentary when the reality consisted of a close call involving…
The caption reads: Proto “Glass” hacker Steven Roberts and the “Brain Interface Unit” for his 1991 nomadic “BEHEMOTH” bike project. The BIU offered a heads-up data display (via The Private Eye), a head-gesture-controlled mouse, radio communications and entertainment audio, spot and flood lights, a rearview mirror, and even a helmet liquid cooling system. My BEHEMOTH…
It suddenly struck me in the last day or so that this is what I’ve been missing: a pace of life that is unhurried, driven only by “whim, women, and weather” as I used to quip during my bicycle epoch. Small craft advisory in the Strait? A new friend in the Harbour? A little boat…
This film, produced at the BBC by David Taylor and Famous Cycling Videos, aired sometime in early 1991… but the filming caught me in the summer of 1990, working on the bike in Soquel (near Santa Cruz) before moving over to the Bikelab in Silicon Valley. I was sharing a rental house with friends, and…
These tattered drawings recently turned up in the lab… and it occurs to me that I have never done a proper article about the rather too-elaborate engineering of the hydraulic systems on the Microship for rudder and landing-gear control. Here is a quick overview of this essential subsystem. The boat’s hydraulic system is made up…
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 Boxby 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 lives…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. 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…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
I have an online store linked above for technomadic publications and cards, along with a few special items of historical interest. (This is in addition to the Microship eBay store offering an eclectic mix of gizmology, nautical geekery, 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.
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.
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