NorthStar Horizon Personal Computer

NorthStar Horizon Personal Computer

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Northstar developed from a computer store called "The Original Kentucky Fried Computer." It changed its name due to impending litigation by Kentucky Fried Chicken! The company's first product was a Floating Point Math Board for S-100 computers. They then developed an inexpensive floppy drive system. This led the way to the Horizon, one of the first computers with built in floppy drives.
Announced in November 1977, the Horizon was sold in a wooden cabinet, as opposed to the more usual metal or plastic. The initial price was $1,899 assembled and $1,599 unassembled. The Horizon ran on a Z-80 microprocessor that ran at 4 MHz. It contained 16 KB of RAM, which could be expanded to 64 KB and 1 KB of ROM. The operating system was both CP/M and Northstar DOS. The machine was among the first to offer floppy drives, and customers could order one or two 90 KB 5 ¼" drives. Northstar was also one of the first machines to offer a hard disk drive. This was called an HD-18, and had 18 Megabytes on an 18" platter. The Northstar Horizon was suited for business, education, and software development applications.
This particular machine was donated to the Smithsonian by Peter A. McWilliams, author of the popular book, The Personal Computer book, (1983) which became a runaway bestseller. This was his first computer.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
average spatial: 19.1 cm x 50.1 cm x 44.5 cm; 7 1/2 in x 19 3/4 in x 17 1/2 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Peter McWilliams
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Medicine and Science: Computers
Family & Social Life
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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My folks' had two of these before 1980. There was one multiple choice "game" on it....I remember the process of getting bored with it and going through each and every available option, but can't remember what it was called.....I say two because there was one at home in the office there and my father had one at one of their two businesses. That business has moved location but is still up and running despite the 40 years and this last one's Covid-19 scene. I don't know when he upgraded the one at the office but he one at home sat there most of the time because they were at work and by my sophomore year in high school when we got computers and a programming class, they had gotten a deal on the Pet Commodore. However, as far as I know, I was the only kid in the school system to have one in 1978 or 1979. The multiple choice "game" only. Unfortunately, I read extremely well........and quickly. So it was a phase that puttered out quickly. I look back now though and crack only kid....I got an Atari.. And didn't use it much either. I went from that life to having game systems around as my kids grew up. One adult child handed me an Oculus. about a year ago. From that to the VR thing has made me feel my midlife crisis has found a direction for now. If I ever find someone who can refresh me on what that 'program" or "game' was called.....I'll be greatful. Until then I will refer to it as "Joshua"...Wargames came out afterwards.........and tic tac toe could be won if played with a human who makes mistakes. A computer playing itself wouldn't even comprehend that as possible. then or now. Multiple choice, pick your steps as you win no lose...for a game to a then preteen or tweenager.....what was the point? Not enough options/steps to keep me busy for more than a couple of hours total. And it wasn't "playing" anything for the latter of it, it was just making sure I'd taken every possible path every step of the soon as I realized I had "gone in circles" ............the last half went faster.....even repeating choices/steps, for proceeding as if i were looking for the first letter of a word in a word search, but in alphabetical order. I became methodical in process......better than Pokemon Go players, though. I didn't fall for that crap. I got off the chair potato status with the NorthStar....

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