Atari XL Series Computers - 1200XL  




A300 Project

(Pre-1200 Designs)






Sweet 16 Product Specification

Sweet 16 Operating System

Sweet 16 OS Supplement 1 - Self Test

Sweet 16 OS Supplement 2 - Relocating Loader

Sweet 16 OS Supplement 3 - Handler Loader

Sweet 16 OS Supplement 5 - Character Set

A1200 OS Manual Rev2 11/30/82

1200XL Test Spec 12/23/82

1200 & Cost Reduced 800 FCC Submission

1200XL Production Testing - Jan 6, 1983

1200XL - Tawian Version - FCC testing Mar 31, 1983

"Better 1200" Design drawing Nov 10, 1982


Atari 1200XL PBI Modification

Atari 1200XL OS Modification

Atari 1200XL Keyboard Fix

Atari 1200XL Clear Pic Mod








The Atari 1200XL Computer System

 In December 1982 Atari's Home Computer Division (HCD) introduced the new replacement computer to its aging Atari 400/800 line. Shipped to dealers in February 1983.  The new computer brought to Atari's home computers line a high-tech and sleek low profile modern look.   The case design and the "XL Look" were created by Regan Cheng of Atari's Industrial Design group.   The all new design took the 7 separate boards that made up the Atari 800 (Main, Power, CPU, OS and 3 16K Memory boards) and integrated them into a single motherboard with 64K of memory. The system also brought with it probably "THE" best keyboard for any Atari system.    

 The system featured many new internal and external enhancements.   Some of the obvious ones were the new Function keys and built-in HELP key that programmers could incorporate their usage into future programs.   The tangle of wires from the system were now out of the back making for a clean and uncluttered arrangement.    The cartridge port and controller jacks were now on the left side of the system.  The new OS was designed for a new era of SIO "Plug n Play" devices to automatically load their device drivers and even on-board applications right into the 1200XL memory, also an International Character Set and built-in Diagnostic features were now part of the system. Other OS enhancements were included as well.    

 However the downside was that many programs by both 3rd party companies and even Atari itself were incompatible with this new OS in the machine. The loss of 2 of the 4 original controller jacks from the earlier Atari 400/800 systems didn't seem like much of a big deal to the 1200XL engineers, however the end users did seem to mind. The system was supposed to have a better video display output signal, however to most end users, the system appeared to have a fuzzier display then the Atari 800.  The system also touted that it had 64K of memory, however for the end user, they still only had access to 48K of it.  Another sticking point for consumers: No expansion whatsoever. While the idea of a "Closed Box" design seemed like a good idea to Atari's Marketing Department, the consumer felt exactly the opposite.

 Atari's whole design philosophy for their home computer line was that these would be Consumer oriented, not Hobbyist oriented systems. That meant buffering the user from the actual electronics and chips within the machines. This concept was very well executed on the Atari 800 with its easy to remove top cover and its various OS and Memory modules fitted into easy to install packages. The SIO connector also gave users a universal, easy to handle and understand expansion system. Atari felt it could take this philosophy to the extreme with the 1200XL and completely cut the users off from ANY internal access. Even the simplest of users still wanted to tinker and expand their systems and the 1200XL just didn't give them the flexibility found in Apple ][e's, C64s or Atari's original 800 line of computers. What really did it in for the 1200XL was its price.  Originally introduced at an insanely high $999 price tag, then almost immediately dropped to $899.  Magazines and end users alike scoffed at such a high price for a system that to many - gave them less, less joystick ports, less expansion, less memory than advertised.  Atari's new hot rod was becoming its "Edsel."

 While the 1200XL's were arriving at dealers and into consumer hands in February 1983, Atari was already at work on several "New" XL's which would replace the 1200XL and give users more features at much better prices.   By March of 1983, while 1200XL's were just settling into users hands, Atari engineers already spec'd out the 600XL, which was the "S-16" design, the Atari 400 replacement.  However, the S-64: the 1200XL itself was already slated for the chopping block.  It successor was also spec'd out in March called the 800XL, a system that would provide the features and the much lower cost that the 1200XL just didn't deliver. The Atari 1200XL was slated for cancellation before the full production assembly lines slated for ATMC (Atari's Tawain Manufacturing Company) were even tooled up to produce them.  Up to that point, all of the Atari 1200XL's were being built and assembled in the US. In June 1983 the other two computer specifications: the Atari 1400XL and Atari 1450XLD were completed and in July 1983 the Atari 1200XL was officially canceled, expected to be replaced by that fall with the 600XL and 800XL computers.

Are you a former Atari engineer?  Did you work on the 1200XL or have direct knowledge of this project? 

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