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Manufacturer Steven K. Roberts & friends
Identification,ID BEHEMOTH -
(Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine ...Only Too Heavy)
Date of first manufacture1983-1991
Number produced -1
Estimated price or cost-
location in museum -
donor Steven K. Roberts

Most text and images on this page are from Computer Museum History Center "CORE" Vol 2.1
Contents of this page:

BEHEMOTH, the "Technomadic Adventure Platform" built by Steve Roberts, traveled more than 17,000 miles before it found a new home. After speaking at a Museum lecture on Sept 7, 2000, Steve Roberts presented BEHEMOTH to The Computer Museum History Center as a long-term loan The helmet features a Private Eye display, ultrasonic head-mouse sensor, fluid heat exchanger and headset with boom microphone.


Architecture from handout by Steve Roberts

Since 1983, Steve Roberts has been a technomad, alternating between open-ended periods of networked wandering and increasingly ambitious machine-building layovers. Though it began simply as the Computing Across America high-tech solo bicycle adventure (expected to last only a year or so), the project gained momentum though the symbiosis of constant media attention and increasing collaboration with hundreds of sponsors and volunteers. Unexpectedly, the tools and techniques of nomadness became interested to a vast population of individuals who yearn to combine physical freedom with solid connectivity. "Once you move to the Internet," Steve says, "your physical location becomes irrelevant."

This book begins with a substantial overview of the computerized recumbent bicycles, Winnebiko and BEHEMOTH, then describes system design and early adventures with the Microships: amphibian pedal/solar/sail networked folding micro-trimarans that will carry Steve and his partner, Natasha, through the next level of aquatic technomadness. In so doing, it serves as the introduction to the whole family of Nomadic Research Labs publications that detail every aspect of this state-of-the-art project, from engineering-level Microship internal details to spirited tales of prowling the world's backwaters with a boatload of gizmology. Beyond all that, this publication is intended as a subversive statement of what happens when passion, technology, freedom, romance, and adventure are blended into a single obsessive fantasy...

"Art without engineering is dreaming.
Engineering without art is calculating." -Steven K. Roberts

To purchase your copy of FROM BEHEMOTH TO MICROSHIP:

  1. Bring this flyer to Computer Literacy Bookshops by March 31, 2001 and get 20% off ($12) San Jose Store: 2590 North First Street, #108 (at Trimble Road), 408.435.1118 Sunnyvale Store: 520 Lawrence Expwy, #510 (at Titan Way), 408.730.9955
  2. Order an autographed copy by mail @ $15 each, plus $3 for domestic shipping and handling Please fax your credit card order to 1.360.387.2429, or mail your order to Nomadic Research Labs, 1313 Hagen Road, Camano Island, WA 98282. Kindly make your check payable to: Nomadic Research Labs
    Name:  ______________________________
    Address:  ________________________________
    Phone: ______________________  Email:  ___________________
    Quantity (at $18 each, including shipping within the continental U.S.):
    Credit Card Number: |_| Visa |_| Mastercard  ______________________

Special features

Historical Notes

This Artifact
This machine traveled 17,000 miles, including a trip between New York and Seattle via New Orleans.

from Computer Museum History Center "CORE" 2.1
THE BEHEMOTH BEHEMOTH, Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine ...Only Too Heavy (1983-1991), L2003.2001, Loaned by Steve Roberts

After speaking at a Museum lecture on Sept 7, 2000, Steve Roberts presented BEHEMOTH to The Computer Museum History Center as a long-term loan

In the early 1980s, feeling trapped in his suburban lifestyle, Steve Roberts began to reevaluate his life. Roberts, a freelance technical writer who had published articles in magazines such as Byte, decided to tour the country on a recumbent bicycle of his own design, the Winnebiko. During his trip, Roberts made his living publishing stories and writing a book as he went along, using his on-board Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 and a CompuServe account to email his stories to publishers.

After redesigning the bike (as Winnebiko II), Roberts went off in an entirely different direction, devising BEHEMOTH (Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine ...Only Too Heavy): a 580pound, 105-speed recumbent bicycle with a four-foot yellow trailer solar panel array that allowed the incorporation of many more technologies than on previous bikes. Roberts envisioned a project where a "computer and communication tools rendered physical location irrelevant." BEHEMOTH sported antennas for communication over various amateur and public radio networks, several networked computers (including an Apple Macintosh and an Intel 386-based laptop), a special keypad on each bicycle handle to allow typing, and a security system that would alert police if the vehicle were disturbed. The helmet is perhaps the most futuristic-looking part of BEHEMOTH, with its heads-up display, motion sensors for cursor control, lights, fluid heat exchanger to keep the head cool, and audio system. A complete feature list is shown below.

Roberts logged over 17,000 miles on BEHEMOTH and gave hundreds of radio, television, and print interviews over the several years he was on the road. This wide exposure points to BEHEMOTH as an important milestone in the integration of technologies for recreational use, as well as a highly visible artifact of early wireless mobile networking. Roberts retired BEHEMOTH to begin a new project called the Microship.


Console (forward enclosure under fiberglass hood)

  • Macintosh 68K (control GUI and primary workspace)
  • Bicycle Control Processor (FORTH 68HC11)
  • Ampro 286 DOS platform for CAD system
  • Toshiba 1000 repackaged laptop for scrolling FAQ
  • 80 MB hard disk space
  • Audapter speech synthesizer
  • Speech recognition board
  • Trimble GPS satellite navigation receiver
  • Audio and serial crosspoint switch networks (homebrew)
  • PacComm packet TNC (VHF datacomm)
  • MFJ 1278 for AMTOR (HF datacomm)
  • Diagnostic tools (LED matrix, DPM, etc)
  • Handlebar keyboard processor
  • Ultrasonic head mouse controller
  • Icom 2-meter transceiver
  • Radiation monitor
  • Cordless phone and answering machine on RJ-11 bus
  • Folding 6-segment aluminum console
  • Fiberglass fairing
RUMP - Rear Unit of Many Purposes (white enclosure behind seat)
  • Stereo System (Blaupunkt speakers, Yamaha 18W amp)
  • 10 GHz Microwave motion sensor (security)
  • LINGO physical motion sensor (security)
  • Rump Control Processor (FORTH 68HC11)
  • Audio crosspoint network, bussed to console
  • Ampro DOS core module for heads-up display
  • LED taillight controller
  • Motorola 9600-baud packet modem for backpack link
  • 7-liter helmet-cooling tank and pump
  • Personal accessory storage
  • Air compressor for pneumatic system
  • 15 amp-hour sealed lead-acid battery (1 of 3)
  • Reflection Technology Private Eye display
  • Ultrasonic head-mouse sensors
  • Helmet lights (2)
  • Life Support Systems heat exchanger for head cooling
  • Setcom headset with boom microphone
SPARCPACK (aluminum case atop RUMP)
  • Sun SPARCstation IPC with 12MB RAM and 424 MB disk
  • Sharp color active-matrix display
  • Motorola 9600-baud packet modem
  • 10-watt solar panel
Trailer (WASU - Wheeled Auxiliary Storage Unit)
  • 72-watt Solarex photovoltaic array (4.8 Amps at 12V)
  • Qualcomm OmniTRACS satellite terminal
  • Ham Radio station:
    • Icom 725 for HF
    • Yaesu 290/790 for VHF and UHF
    • AEA Television transceiver
    • Audio filtration and Magic Notch
    • Antenna management and SWR/power meters
    • Automatic CW keyer
    • Outbacker folding dipole antenna on yellow mast
  • Dual-band VHF/UHF antenna
  • Telebit CeIIBlazer high-speed modem
  • Oki cellular phone, repackaged and integrated
  • Telular Celjack RJ-11 interface
  • Credit card verifier for on-the-road sales
  • Trailer Control Processor (FORTH 68HC11)
  • Audio crosspoint network, bussed to console
  • Bike power management hardware
  • Two 15 amp-hour sealed lead-acid batteries
  • Security system pager
  • Canon bubble jet printer
  • Fluke digital multimeter
  • Mobile R&D lab, tools, parts, etc.
  • Makita battery charger (for drill and flashlight)
  • Microfiche documentation and CD library
  • Camping, video, camera, personal gear
  • Fiberglass-over-cardboard composite structure
  • High-brightness LED taillight clusters
Bike and Frame-Mounted Components
  • Custom recumbent bicycle
  • 105-speed transmission (7.9 - 122 gearinches)
  • Pneumatically-deployed landing gear
  • Pneumatic controls, pressure tank, air horn
  • Hydraulic disk brake
  • Under-seat steering
  • Handlebar chord keyboard
  • CD player
More thorough details, along with information about Roberts' Microship project, may be found on the Nomadic Research Labs website:

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Updated June 26, 2001