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.

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. 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 it 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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The Little Cod Boat Wood Stove

The season is turning, that’s obvious. We’re pinned down in Deer Harbor with a frontal system coming through… 30-40 knots tomorrow, a brief respite on Sunday, another blast on Monday. We parked here to rendezvous with Andrew of Navigator Stove Works and get the black-enameled Little Cod wood stove installed. The timing couldn’t be better.…

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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.

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…

Datawake Scanner Installation

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…

No Pressure – the Maiden Voyage

News from No Pressure (formerly Nomadness) Saturday, Nov 12 – 3:00 PM Friday Harbor to San Diego transit complete! Saturday, Nov 12 – 12:45 PM – Arriving San Diego Saturday, Nov 12 – 10:30 AM Final approach to San Diego… Friday, Nov 11 – 9:00 PM They only stayed in Santa Barbara long enough to acquire fluids…

Audio and Comm Console Development

by Steven K. Roberts October 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…

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 Archives

Changes to the library are automatically shown here... whether newly scanned articles, digitized videos and movies, historical documents, or just edits to existing material. Current article count: 703

KA8OVA at 1986 Dayton Hamvention computer session

The photo above shows me giving a talk about the Computing Across America adventure at the “Computers in the Ham Shack” event during the 1986 Dayton Hamvention (photo by Dr. Jim Grubbs, KR6EN/ex-K9EI, who was session moderator). The Worldradio article below is from the July issue, but the Dayton weekend was April 25-27 so we use…

Dark Side, with a Twist

Oh good grief, I’ve done it again. All those good intentions to blog frequently, and it’s been seven months since my last post! But I have a good excuse, and it has something to do with the Microship that I spent a decade building, ignored for a decade, then launched last summer. That, and chronic…

Datawake, Shacktopus, and Nomadness

Now that Nomadness is parked in a yacht club slip for the winter (with a Spring deadline to vacate since I’m on the reciprocal dock), there is a kind of clarity that is unfamiliar around here: an actual deadline. Specifically, I have about 4-5 months to do whatever I need to do that requires dockside…

A Touch of Newmadness

If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. If it happens to be an auxiliary cruising boat, it is…

Nomadness, Reloaded. Again.

A lot has happened since my last posting, in which I had reluctantly concluded that the trimaran was for sale. Among other things, she has indeed been sold… and just completed an inaugural voyage with her new Canadian owner (ironically, right back to Desolation Sound via Cowichan Bay, Pender Harbour, and Nanaimo). I write now…

Biker writes, computes, and pedals – Canandaigua

by Jonathan Zukosky Canandaigua Messenger — August 17, 1987 He calls himself a “high-tech nomad” who crosses the country in a “220-pound electronic cottage on wheels.” He is Steve Roberts, a free lance writer who has been biking across America since 1983 in ever-evolving, high-tech fashion. It’s easy to believe Roberts when he says his is…

Geek Services

I live aboard in Friday Harbor, and offer a variety of services using some of the exquisite tools that have become part of the ship: 8 & 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.