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 true 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. Therefore that meant buffering the
user from the actual electronics and chips within the machines.
This design 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. The collective shortcomings
of the 1200XL unfortunately overshadowed its many new enhancements.
Atari's new prodigy became its "Edsil" The
introduction of the new 1200XL actually increased sales of the Atari 800.
Users began to buy 800's in fear that they would be stuck with a closed and
A-300 Project(Pre-1200 Designs)
|Sweet 16 Product Specification Document|
|Sweet 16 Operating System Details|
|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|
|Atari 1200XL PBI Modification|
|Atari 1200XL OS Modification|
|Atari 1200XL Clear Pic Modification|