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.
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”…
by Steven K. Roberts Friday Harbor, Washington As this paleo-technomad pushes seventy (!) there have been a few reminders of mortality… not to mention a noticeable reluctance to go gallivanting up hills every time I need something. This has become more of an issue lately with a little medical distraction, so my first solution, given…
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
Long ago, I wrote this little humor piece… with fantasies about my homebrew computer developing intelligence and getting bored with sitting around in a keyboard wait loop. This was its first publication, and it later appeared in Mensa Bulletin (June, 1979) and InfoWorld (November 10, 1980). The artwork below was done by David Caudill after…
I published this back in 1979, when I was building custom micro-based systems for Corning Glass, Seagram’s Distilleries, and Robinson-Nugent. As a lone developer, I could not afford $20K for an Intel In-Circuit Emulator (ICE), so I invented this device to simulate the ROM in a target system by plugging in a ribbon cable reflecting…
Looking at these ancient photos now, I can see why I often got “written up” after room inspections. My bed, not shown here, was a crawl-in cave behind the workbench, and I had a cat named Bolivar living with me. The tall equipment rack was a homebrew HF transmitter with a pair of Eimac 100TH…
One of my early interests in “the computer hobby,” as it was called in the 1970s, was music composition and synthesis. My homebrew 8008 system (October 1974) was immediately paired with a Walsh-function waveform generator and top-octave synthesizer, and as those early heady years passed I turned my attention often to music tools. This article…
This article fell out of my first real consulting gig. I was 25, had gotten a bit of local notoriety for my 1974 homebrew computer system and other projects, and landed a contract with Honeywell to do the HVAC management system for the University of Louisville Campus. They did all the air handling stuff, of…
My father, Edward Roberts, was aboard the maiden voyage of the liner America, which left New York on August 10, 1940. Here is his amazing 37-minute home movie of the adventure, including details of ship and passengers as well as shore excursions in St. Thomas, San Juan, Port-au-Prince, and Havana. Here he is with fellow…
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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