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 Beast

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.

The Ship Weather Station

Datawake was named for a central theme of this project: slurping information from a wide variety of sensors, presenting it on a console, then leaving a wake of data astern. “Sensors” come in many flavors, and I use the term to include status bits, temperatures, radio traffic, video, navigation data, network and server logs, motion detectors, and anything else that conveys…

Microship Seeks Geeky Skipper

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs A decade of my life (1993-2002) was focused on the development of this gizmologically intense amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran, but as the project neared its end, my own nautical desires were shifting. She sat in my lab for a few years, nearly forgotten… then had a swan song in 2013 with dozens…

360 Views around Datawake

I’ve started playing with 360° photos, and of course the first application is to create a virtual tour of the boat. The tool I’m using is the Samsung Gear 360, driven my my S6 phone. I’m working on a proper walkthrough with about 15 images and warp points to connect them, but that’s a large project……

Every Starship Needs a Holodeck

The Oculus Rift aboard Datawake Years of watching Star Trek convinced me of the importance of holographic environment simulators, but my little ship is too small for the imagery and matter-conversion subsystems used on the Enterprise holodeck. We had to await the development of personal-scale tools that present the illusion of virtual realities without requiring a significant physical…

Interview with Laidback Bike Report

In January of 2017, living aboard Datawake in Friday Harbor, I did a live video interview with Gary Solomon of the Laidback Bike Report. This proved to be an interesting and lively event, and is embedded below. Gary has done a huge collection of interviews related to the dynamic recumbent bicycle scene… something that quite…

The Datawake Console

by Steven K. Roberts  Nomadic Research Labs Much of my past year has been spent integrating a wide range of equipment into the 8-foot console aboard Datawake. It has been a huge project, but is already paying off… making everything feel like a single system, simplifying interconnects, and minimizing clutter. It is not yet “complete,” but it’s far enough along for…

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. June 16, 2019 item count: 857

Usability Professionals Association keynote address – 2000

For a few years, I was in the active stable of Keynote Speakers bureau, and every few months would load BEHEMOTH into a trailer and trundle off across the US for a gig… usually filling in the gaps with more casual events and visits with friends or sponsors. This was a particularly fun one for…

Microship Electronics Photo Essay

by Steven K. RobertsNomadic Research Labs As I settle into Datawake, wrapping myself in a console of rackmount blinkies, I often reminisce about the obsessive Microship project that occupied me for almost a decade (1993-2002). This amphibian pedal-solar-sail micro-trimaran is still in my life, though really should find a new skipper one of these days…

Homebrew 8008 Computer Schematics – 1974

by Steven K. Roberts I unearthed the original schematics of the homebrew computer I built long, long ago… an 8008-based machine that resides in the Computer History Museum (that link will open in a new window and show you four professionally done, zoomable photos). Before sending these six 11×17 hand-drawn documents to be forever with…

Work at Home? Work Anywhere! – Online Today

I wrote this article at a time of intense discovery… the crazy high-tech bicycle adventure was becoming a self-supporting enterprise, and the emerging toolset was hugely provocative. In 1984, there was much intense discussion about the viability of working at home via computers and network connections; this piece explored the notion that there was no…

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…

Movie – 1971 home visit before Air Force

In 1971, I made a strange decision… after about a year of being on my own, working as a deckhand on barges and then installing Autovon central-office phone systems on Army bases, I thought I’d join the Air Force as a way to get a degree (since I had cut the cord by dropping out…

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.