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N > NORTHSTAR  > Horizon   


Northstar
Horizon

The Horizon was a S-100 bus based system. It was the first floppy-disc based system hobbyists could buy. In a case with a choice of wood or blue metal cover, the basic version included a 4 Mhz. Z80 microprocessor, 16 KB of RAM, a 90 KB 5''1/4 floppy drive with a controller card, a serial terminal interface and 12 S-100 slots. It was sold with the North Star Disc Operating System and a Basic interpreter allowing random and sequential disk files. The Horizon-2 version offered a second floppy-disc drive.

Any S-100 cards (compatible with Altair, Cromemco and many other systems) could be added to the system, but North Star provided its own additional 16 KB RAM and hardware floating point boards.

In 1979, original 90 KB floppy drives were replaced by Shugart 360 KB models. Northstar also offered an add-on box with two additional floppies, making a total of 4. The box had a matching walnut stained plywood cover.

_______________________

More information from Jim who worked for NorthStar from 1979:
The Horizon, Aaaahh.. What a beautiful machine. It had a big honkin' trasformer for a linear power supply. It was the first product incorporating its own disk controller (see below), a 4 Mhz 8080, 4 KB of RAM standard, and 1 or 2 Shugart 5.25" floppies. RAM could be expanded to 16 Kb.

The Horizon evolved with a faster (8 Mhz) Zilog Z80, and 64 KB of RAM. Then there was an accounting system called TSS/A that made the Horizon multi-user. It consisted of the main processor board, with multiple memory cards in the bus, and an 8 port I/O card for the other terminals.

The final crowning glory of the Horizon was a multi-user sytem called Turbo-Dos. This used the original processor as a controller, and auxiliary processor boards were added in for each user. They were called 8/16, because they could run at 8 or 16 bits. Each user had their own processor and memory (64K) and connected via boardlets from the main machine.

Another intersting fact - NorthStar was one of the early adopters of the hard disk drive. It was called the HD-18 - 18 Megabytes in an 18 inch platter. The drive was as big as a very large suitcase, and weighed about 70 pounds! You could daisy chain up to 4 of these, but the starting current was 13 amps, and when you lit them up all the lights in the place would dim.

NorthStar's first product was a disk controller for the S-100 bus, namely for Altairs. It controlled Shugart 5-1/4" drives, but using a proprietary format of 10 sectors hard-sectored floppies. This meant that the floppies needed 11 holes near the center, (1 index, and 10 sector markers) which was not the norm. Most floppies had one index hole


Richard Randalll sdpecifies:
I belive North Star's first product was an S-100 board that provided a floating-point processor, rather than the micro-disk subsystem, which followed shortly thereafter.




 

My first job out of college in 1981 was in the Environmental Hygiene Laboratory at Olin Corporation in New Haven, CT. There was a Northstar Horizon PC with a Hazeltine terminal (monitor and keyboard in one unit). It also had an acoustically coupled modem for dial-up connections. In addition, there was a daisy wheel printer (I do not remember the brand) connected to it. The Industrial Hygenists in our department would use that setup for word processing. I used it for connecting to the mainframe to edit COBOL programs (even though I was a chemist in the lab, I had taken courses in college for BASIC, Fortran 77 and assembly language).

          
Wednesday 17th January 2018
TransParent (CT/USA)

I had a computer store named Computer Junction and was a Northstar dealer. I still have a Northstar Horizon with 5 MB hard disk in its original box. The system also employed a Soroc terminal and I have one of those too. We sold word processors based on a Vector Graphic S100 bus computer combined with a graphics card and video monitor. The system used a Diablo printer and sold for $9000.

          
Saturday 22nd June 2013
Mark A. Forte (Virginia)

Hello,
I''m not sure if you are aware of this but a computer shop located in Owatonna, Minnesota is doing business under the name "North Star Computers". It is owned by a gentleman named Eric (not sure of his last name) but they are located at 707 North Elm Ave, Owatonna MN 55060. 507-413-5250 is their listed phone number, eric@northstarcomputersmn.com is their email and their website can be viewed at http://www.northstarcomputersmn.com
I know how hard it is to build a business not to mention someone taking your business name. Just thought I''d let you know in the event you want to look into it.

Best Regards.
Anonymous Sender

          
Thursday 28th March 2013
Anonomous (Owatonna, Minnesota, USA 55060)

 

NAME  Horizon
MANUFACTURER  Northstar
ORIGIN  U.S.A.
YEAR  1977
END OF PRODUCTION  Unknown
BUILT IN SOFTWARE / GAMES  None
CONTROLLERS  Serial terminal
CPU  Zilog Z80
SPEED  4 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR  None
RAM  16 KB (up to 64 KB)
VRAM  Unknown
ROM  1 KB
TEXT MODES  80 chars. x 24 lines
GRAPHIC MODES  Text mode only
COLORS  Monochrome
SOUND  No sound
SIZE / WEIGHT  50.8 (W) x 44.4 (D) x 18.4 (H) cm / About 20 kg
I/O PORTS  12-slot S100 BUS, Serial and Parallel ports
MEDIA  One or Two 5.25'' FDD. Later 5 and 18 MB Hard disk drives, 13.4 MB tape backup
NUMBER OF GAMES  Northstar DOS
POWER SUPPLY  Integrated 250W P.S.U.
PERIPHERALS  S-100 Bus cards
PRICE  Horizon-1: $1599 (kit) $1899 (assembled)
Horizon-2: $1999 (kit) $2349 (assembled)




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