Incidental Intelligence, 1963, plus A Wooden Computer?

Every single item in this column brought a smile to my face but the last one, which perfectly conveys the Rice I know so well, made me laugh out loud:

Incidental Intelligence October 1963

I don’t know much about the author, young Mr. Hanovich, other than that he wrote (very well) for the Thresher for several years and that he had quite a keen eye for the special brand of absurdity that thrives in academic institutions. His “Incidental Intelligence” column has been one of the highlights of my research on the 1960s at Rice.

Bonus: It sounds like a joke my kids might make about how old I am, but this looks like a wooden computer to me.


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8 Responses to Incidental Intelligence, 1963, plus A Wooden Computer?

  1. Bill Peebles '70 says:

    I would guess that the case has simulated wood-grain contact paper on it. It’s an old one, evidenced by the 8-inch floppy drives.

  2. Melissa Kean says:

    No, it’s really wood! I touched it.

  3. almadenmike says:

    It’s a NorthStar Horizon, made by one of the more successful (if short-lived) early Bay Area computer companies. Here’s a web about that describes it: (Of course, there’s a Wikipedia page that gives the company history, too.)

    I had a good friend who worked at NorthStar for a few years.

    • almadenmike says:

      Here’s a tribute to a key role that NorthStar played in early-PC history: (A comment by Paul Terrell, the owner of the Byte Shop, the first computer store): “What a great product the Horizon was but North Star played a more important role in the evolution of the personal computer by designing the first floppy disk controller for the Shugart 5 1/4 inch floppy drive for the s100 bus and saved my ass at Byte Shop because I had an exclusive contract with Don Massaro the president of Shugart for the HOBBY Computer market and had no idea how we were going to interface them to anything or even more important … How were we going to control them!!! Thank GOD for Digital Research and a Disk Operating System… Love you Gary Kildall ! CPM forever…”

      (Source: …. Note to Melissa: That article has Polaroid photos.)

      • Melissa Kean says:

        Thanks, Mike! Do you think we should keep this?

        • almadenmike says:

          I’d say ‘Yes’ if there was interest in having hardware for future exhibits on “Computing at Rice.” Folks in the future will amazed at how large the early PCs were … and it should also be useful to see real artifacts that can teach students about the impact of features, design, standards and business strategies in the success (and failure) of emerging technologies.

          If not, I’d consult with the Computer History Museum here in Mountain View, Calif. This particular NorthStar model is not on its “Wish List” ( … but it’s also not on its “Unneeded Items” list either ( I’m sure the CHM staff would be very helpful to fellow preservation professionals.

          BTW, the latter page mentions a Houston Computer Museum, established by John R. Keys Jr. ( But its website and Facebook pages haven’t been updated since 2012, so it may no longer be a going concern..

  4. marmer01 says:

    Wooden cases are fairly common on audio and electronic gear, especially from this time period. Whether for non-conductivity or aesthetic reasons, or both (my guess is both, plus it might be easier to fabricate an exact-size case from wood for a small manufacturer) I don’t know.

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