Steve Roberts and Winnebiko at Maroon Bells - Jeffrey Aaronson, Aspen

This 1984 photo session was by Jeffrey Aaronson of Aspen, and yielded some gorgeous images as well as nonstop interesting conversation. He was originally hired by National Geographic to do the shoot for a book on computers, and this additional image from the same day was used in Hewlett-Packard press releases about their Model 110 Portable computer, one of which follows. A poster-sized version of this hung in the company’s hallway in Corvallis for years.

The caption of the H-P press photo above read:

With the Rocky Mountains to inspire him, free-lance writer Steve Roberts adds the finishing touches to an article he’s composed on The Portable computer from Hewlett-Packard Company. Roberts has been bicycling around the United States for a year now and, by writing stories on The Portable and transmitting them to publishers via modem over telephone lines, has maintained his free-lance business.

Photo: Jeffrey Aaronson / Aspen

This poster was on the wall behind the bike when it was on display in the Hewlett-Packard press room at COMDEX 1984.

September, 1984

“It’s addicting — I don’t know how I’ll stop,” says freelance writer Steve Roberts. A year ago, Roberts packed a portable computer, sleeping bag and some food onto a bicycle and began pedaling across America, in search of stories. So far, he’s looped around the Midwest, cycled down the East Coast, trundled across the Gulf Coast and headed north to the Rocky Mountains. He’s obviously hooked on his free-wheeling lifestyle.

“It’s a high-tech adventure,” says the writer, who’s unusual eight-foot long bike is equipped with a solar panel that provides the power he needs to recharge his computer, operate the cassette recorder he uses for dictation, as well as run the bike’s many lights. But Roberts isn’t completely footloose; in fact, with the use of The Portable — a nine-pound, full-function portable computer from Hewlett-Packard Company — he’s maintaining a full-time writing business.

Roberts’ travels have given him more material than he can use — stories about ice caves, water beetles and an encounter with some convicts who shared their private cache of walnut cake with him. “I’ve been in towns for as little as a day to as long as a month,” says Roberts. “I usually meet people on the road and stay with them, which makes it easy to plug into a community. All of my pre-conceived notions about people have disappeared.”

Roberts has an assistant back in Ohio and, with the aid of The Portable, operates his office by remote control. When he needs to transmit messages and stories, the writer goes to a phone booth and uses a modem to send files directly over the phone lines. In addition to articles, Roberts is writing a book — Computing Across America.

As a subscriber to CompuServe, an on-line data service, Roberts also maintains a pen-pal relationship with a number of computer enthusiasts all over the country. “The computer is my link with the universe — I very seldom use the telephone for voice messages. The combination of portable computers and communications networks is very powerful.

“For years we’ve been hearing about how liberating computers are and, so far, that’s been b.s. The machines are usually chained to a desk and require you to put on an intellectual straight jacket to deal with them,” maintains Roberts. “But The Portable is a personal information appliance; it’s easy to use and, with its computing capabilities, robust memory and peripherals, is the equivalent of a full-scale office I can carry on my bike.”

Where’s Roberts headed next? Through the Southwest and into California, and eventually on into Canada. According to this high-tech adventurer, he’ll settle in one spot “When I fall in love or get tired of traveling. If you worry too much about where you’re going, you lose respect for where you are.”


Here is another photo from that same shoot, in the National Geographic book Computers: Those Amazing Machines. Yet another became the cover of Computing Across America.

This is an advertisement with the same photo for Computers Those Amazing Machines (part of National Geographic’s series, Books for World Explorers)