The Library of Technomadics

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.

(Click title for our film digitizing business in Friday Harbor.)
(Photo by Mel Lindstrom)

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 Consoles of my Life

Over the years, there has been one stylistic constant in my pursuit of übergeekery: equipment consoles. It started one 1964 afternoon in Louisville, when this skinny 12-year-old electronics-obsessed geeklet got a peek at how the big boys do it. Via a ham radio friend, I had wangled an invitation to visit the avionics maintenance shop…

1974 Vic Franck Delta 50

Floating Technomadic Lab/Office for Sale! Recent posts in this wide-ranging archive have covered my move to the “Dark Side” – selling my Amazon 44 named Nomadness on a quest for floating lab space. I bought this gorgeous Delta 50 in early 2016, named her Datawake for the “wake of data” streaming astern, then spent four…

Digitizing Our Lives

Coronavirus will echo for decades. Everything was normal… then suddenly we were on sabbatical from our own timelines, routines disrupted by intimations of mortality… priorities shifted, values inverted, unspeakable things whispered, stats obsessively reloaded. We watch the news in horror, contemplate de-facto partnerships, ache at disconnections, and muse about the messes we will leave behind…

An Underwater Exploration Toolkit for Boats

One of the strongest motivations behind the Datawake project is to extend my human sensorium, letting me see into otherwise invisible realms. This takes many forms: data collection systems fed by environmental sensors, embedded probes that report conditions I would never otherwise detect, optics for long-range peering, scanners and software-defined radios for keeping my ear to the…

Maritime Mobile FT8 Amateur Radio

I’ve recently been enjoying immersion in a sort of ham radio for introverts… a new digital mode called FT8 that allows weak-signal communication on all the HF bands from 160 to 6 meters via tiny 50Hz-wide signals exchanged by time-synchronized computers running WSJT-X. A complete exchange takes a minute and a half, with the connected machines…

Using a FLIR ONE Thermal Camera Aboard

A driving force in my years of building technomadic machines has been a toolset for seeing the world beyond the limitations of my usual senses… something that is not only intrinsically fascinating, but essential for diagnostics. The latest addition is a FLIR ONE thermal imaging camera (the Gen-3 USB-C model for Android; there is also…

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. February 11, 2021 item count: 933

North Florida Snapshots

Computing Across America, Chapter 16 by Steven K. Roberts Gainesville, Florida December 15, 1983 A variety of nothing is superior to a monotony of something.— Jean Paul Richter There it was at last: Florida. I could see the green sign far ahead on the last long stretch of Highway 17 in Georgia, and steeled myself…

Thanksgiving

Computing Across America, Chapter 14 by Steven K. Roberts Savannah, Georgia November 26, 1983 Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard. — Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume Ashepoo, South Carolina — the day before Thanksgiving. I stopped to take a much-needed break from the two-lane truck route known as US 17, and…

Naked at the Epicenter

This little snippet from my Miles with Maggie series (#52) took place two months before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that shattered our newfound Santa Cruz complacency. The foreshock impressionistically recorded here was but a teaser… yet deeply intimate somehow, coming as it did on the edge of sleep. The impact on the psyche was…

Odds and End Users – Information Center

Just a little photo/caption from a computer magazine of the day, which also had articles about care of floppy disks and speculation about whether 1989 is the Year of the LAN. I was in the oddball stories section, along with a heavyweight champion punching out a computer. Oh, and I had a corner of the…

The Midnight Attack

by Steven K. Roberts Milpitas, California July 20, 1989 Photo above: June Moxon with crew in Enchanted Slipper on Slimy Slope Eureka, California Kinetic Sculpture Race ’89 These are the times that make all the others worthwhile. Cold, misty wind. Surf rumbling in the dark; fresh thick Humboldt beer the color of night foaming in…

The First 200 Miles

Computing Across America, Chapter 5 by Steven K. Roberts October 1, 1983 Are yew with NASA?— Ohio farmer Passionately consuming a mug of iced root beer, I sat with Walt and Robby in a Mechanicsburg cafe. It was our first break. Outside, on a hot and sloping small-town main street, stood the bikes — mine the…

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. 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…

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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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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.