One of the first stories I did after becoming a freelance in 1983 was about a guy named Steve Roberts (right).
Steve had just quit his day job at CompuServe for his first big adventure, which he called Computing Across America. Just a young man on a bicycle ride that stretched out to 17,000 miles. It started when he put some necessities into some pannier bags, strapped a Radio Shack Model 100 across his handlebars and took off, Forrest Gump-style. We had dinner once, after he found a place to temporary place to land in Santa Cruz, California.
While I've spent the last 27 years wandering the tech writing wilderness, from PCs to telecommunications, from Internet Commerce to open source, from health care to renewable energy, Steve has been going his solitary way, living a solitary life surrounded by technology, always on the go.
I sort of modeled myself on Steve, who was a full generation before his time, even though I stayed in one place, with one wife, and most of my voyaging happened in my mind. The way I did it was by constantly looking forward, as he does, by staying true to my calling as he does, by trying to push the envelope in my way as he does.
If Steve were starting out today, of course, things would be a lot different. For one thing, the journaling metaphor he pioneered at CompuServe is now an industry called blogging, with a real business model. For another thing his bike today wouldn't be so ginormous. He could get away with just an iPhone on his handlebars and a SunTastic SolarCycle, which straps above the rear wheel, for power.
The SolarCycle is based on a line of PC chargers which now tops off at the PC5 currently on sale for just $129.95, capable of delivering a full amp of power over 5 watts. Anything that can charge-up through a USB port, this thing will power. It can charge an iPhone in just three hours, and you can run the iPhone directly off the unit. Cost of charging is estimated at $22 per watt. Oh, and it's proudly made in the USA.
I think these two stories have a lot to say to one another. It's a lot easier to live off the grid than it was a generation ago. Solar power is a lot more portable, a lot more flexible, and a lot more powerful every year. There's a real business here, a good one.
Don't let the naysayers tell you different.
Be like Steve.