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.

Microship Hydraulics

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…

Video Tour of Datawake by IEEE Spectrum

Back on August 24, I welcomed aboard a delightful visitor named Kristen Clark from IEEE Spectrum, and she spent the afternoon asking good questions… getting me to show her around the boat while the camera rolled. The article just appeared on the IEEE site yesterday, and the video is embedded below… a fun 3-minute snippet of the Datawake project, complete with…

The Boat Machine Shop

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs For the first few months aboard, every attempt to fabricate a part involved clearing a tiny space on the bench, plugging in a funky desk light, and trying to find tools that I had just seen only minutes before. This was demoralizing, so I finally fixed it. This post…

No Pressure – the Maiden Voyage

News from No Pressure (formerly Nomadness) Saturday, Nov 12 – 3:00 PM Friday Harbor to San Diego transit complete! NOTE: this was live-blogged during their voyage, and is in reverse sequence with the most recent posts at the top. Saturday, Nov 12 – 12:45 PM – Arriving San Diego Saturday, Nov 12 – 10:30 AM Final approach…

Audio and Comm Console Development

by Steven K. RobertsOctober 2, 2016 I catch myself doing it again: waiting for closure on some project before writing about it, an old magazine-freelancing habit. Something should actually be done before you publish the details, right? Of course, this isn’t a single-threaded project. Subsystems and components are interleaved and interdependent, the objectives evolve with technological…

Datawake Historical Photos – Circa 1976

Vic Franck Delta 50 (The Chief) in her early years One of the little treasures I found aboard the boat now known as Datawake was a binder of photos from her youth. I think these are from the late 1970s (she was designed by Lynn Senour and built in 1974), and they are quite a contrast…

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. October 6, 2019 item count: 867

BEHEMOTH at Los Angeles Computer Fair

I barely remember this one, though as always it was a real hoot to swap puns with Saint $ilicon and meet the endless flow of eager attendees who visited my booth to see the bike. At this point, I was immersed in the Microship project with teams of students at UCSD, and I recall taking…

The Loma Prieta Earthquake

On this date, something huge happened… shaking me to the core. It was the Loma Prieta earthquake, and I was living in Santa Cruz, working on what would become BEHEMOTH. Life was so scrambled for a while that I didn’t do a full story about it, but this was a brief snippet in the introduction…

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…

1967 Constellation engine failure – and speech synthesis

In May of 1967, I was enroute to the International Science Fair in San Francisco aboard a Constellation operated by American Flyers airline. We had just crossed the front range of the Rockies and were flying over snowy peaks, and I was gazing out the window on the right side of the plane. Suddenly engine…

Speech Compression in 1968

Photo above: STEVE ROBERTS, son of Household Refrigerator employee Ed Roberts, demonstrates his exhibit at the recent Louisville Regional Science Fair held at Jeffersontown High School. Steve’s project, “A New Method of Electronic Speech Compression,” won him six awards and a number two spot at the fair. This article appeared in the weekly General Electric…

Retinal Log-Polar Mapping – Solving the Rotation-Scaling Problem in Image Recognition

by Steven K. Roberts Columbus, Ohio — August, 1981 I have recently found myself spending a lot of time at AI conferences in journalist mode, and have become particularly enamored with image recognition. This fledgling pursuit has been sufficiently captivating to propel me into the study of human vision, and I have been fortunate to spend…

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.