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A > ATARI  > 1200 XL   

1200 XL

The Atari 1200 XL was the predecessor of the Atari 600/800 XL. It had much of the same characteristics, except the size of its ROM (16 KB instead of 24 KB) the BASIC Interpreter being supplied on a cartridge. Because the built-in Operating System was not designed very well, people are known to have swapped the OS ROM chip from their 800XL & put in the 1200 XL.

This machine was a flop in the marketplace and would be produced for only 4 months before being replaced with the 600 & 800 XL machines. This computer was not distributed in Europe.


Curl Vendel says:
The Atari 1200 XLS was an original concept design of the 1200XL. This design was done by Regan Cheng and was an empty non-functional shell.

Martin Scott Goldberg says:
People found out really quick it wasn't compatible with most 400/800 software (a translator disk was later available), which is why Atari rushed to produce the 600 and 800 xl's and put them out that same year. What the 1200XL is known for though, is having the BEST keyboard of any Atari computer - including the ST/TT/Falcons.

Dante Stella specifies:
The Atari 1200XL did not suffer from widespread compatibility problems; a relatively small amount of software that (generally) did not precisely conform to 400/800 standards (primarily 3rd-party games) did not work.
The Translator disk was a relatively obscure product (I think it cost less than $5). A cool trick was to boot from the translator disk, press and hold reset, insert an incompatible cartridge and reboot (ok, it was 20 years ago - but I think I remember that right). I think it was from the 600XL and 800XL that Atari added built-in Atari Basic, an expansion bus and the DIN video connection. Atari also moved distribution from department stores and standalone computer shops to mass-marketers like K-Mart.

An anonymous visitor comments:
The only issue I ever had with my 1200XL, was that sometimes it would have both lights suddenly go on for no reason when Id start it up the first time. It would take several rounds of resets and on off switches before it would go back to normal.
The 1200xl was replaced because the 800xl was less expensive to produce (much worse keboard), and the 800xl also included a BUSS port which atari was then going to sell expansion devices for. That never actually happened, but a company called ICD did invent a plug in interface that allowed a hacker to connect SCSI hard drives up to it! There was also a printer interface that I have in my basement that claims to have hooked up to the 800xl buss, but I never managed to get it working. (Plus the same ICD interface adds printer support as well as the hard drive)

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.



There is one detail I would like to correct. I can remember very clearly that Atari 1200XL WAS sold in Poland (i.e. Europe) at the time. I used to go to this store and check out latest electronics and when I saw the box for 1200XL, I was hooked. The computer looked very elegant and futuristic at the time. I would go back there every couple of weeks. It was months later (sometime in the fall) when I went there again and noticed that 1200XLs were gone and replaced by 600XL and 800XL. Was very upset, as these didn't look as nice to me as the 1200XL model.
It was years later that I got to own 1200XL. Now I have two of them with original boxes and one of them is in M/NM condition. Even the new smell is still there:).
I don't think I noticed that it was mentioned that the original keyboards, though great, stopped working after a while, so they had to be replaced. I have one sitting right here (just in case) that was made by Mitsumi and has a sticker from Radio Shack. One of my computers has this slight problem with the keyboard. I have to press the key few times, sometimes harder, for the keystroke to register.
As for compatibility, I can play Bounty Bob Strikes Back (1984) cartridge just fine (for example).

Saturday 16th September 2006
Mark Brzozowski (New York)

i have one in 1988 but ... je n''est pas fais grand chose avec les jeux ne se trouvaient plus ! j''ai preferé le commodore plus/4

Thursday 30th October 2014
zozo (france)

I got one of these in 1983. The keyboard was awesome. I used to type and store my programs on tape which had recorded music on it (the 1010 only used 1 track to record data, but it would read data from both left and right tracks. Just enter a POKE command to silence the data squench and you could listen to music while loading.. neat!). It took a while but I typed in nearly every Antic and Analog program listing.

Later got the 1050 floppy + US Doubler chip.

This model did not last long not because of compatibility, but because of cost. The cases were heavily shielded to comply with older stricter FCC regs which were not needed anymore. So while the 1200XL was cheaper to build than the 800, it was not cheap enough, and the 800XL was built with less shielding and a cheaper keyboard.

The one thing I always hated about the Atari though was the fact that all the games catered to 48K ram due to the large base of Atari 800s (though I always thought those users upgraded... and probably did). This held back game quality and you could see many C64 games using all 64KB but the Atari one cutting corners to run in 48K. The other thing bad was the BASIC language was very slow.. if anyone remembers TurboBASIC which was FREE software (much later on).. it blew away everything and had near machine language speed. Some really smart Polish programmer wrote it out of disgust for Atari Basic''s speed.

I tossed my 1200XL (regrettably) in 1997 during a move, along with a 1020 plotter and other neat stuff. I also had a 520STfm, but sold it.

The 1200XL got me into programming, and that''s what I do today.

For those who still have these computers, you can get expansion for it including IDE hard drive interfaces, SD card readers, Ethernet networking (wired.. but you can plug it into a cheap wireless access point). It will work with a modern LCD display as it had a decent NTSC signal (not sure about monitor mode.. maybe that works also).

Favorite games were Alternate Reality, FireBug (a free game in a magazine), Archon, Blue Max, and Rescue on Fractalus.

Thursday 8th September 2011
ScottInNH (USA)


NAME  1200 XL
TYPE  Home Computer
YEAR  1982
KEYBOARD  Full stroke keyboard + function keys
CPU  MOS 6502C
SPEED  1.79 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR  GTIA (video output, sprites), POKEY (sound, I/O), ANTIC (video, display lists)
RAM  64 KB
ROM  16 KB (the Basic is on a cardridge)
TEXT MODES  five text modes, max: 40 x 24, min: 20 x 12
GRAPHIC MODES  12 graphic modes, maximum : 320 x 192
COLORS  16 colors with 16 intensities
SOUND  four channels, 3.5 octaves
I/O PORTS  Monitor (RGB) video output, RF TV output (to switchbox), Cartridge slot, Peripheral connector, 2 x Joystick connectors
POWER SUPPLY  External power supply unit
PRICE  $599.99 (USA, June 1983)

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