The Atari 1200XL Computer in Action

Photos is the closest I have come to seeing an Atari 1200XL Computer being used. What I know of the system mostly comes from its bad reputation as a “closed system” that was not adequately backwards compatible. Also as a gamer I was sad to read that they reduced the number of joystick ports from 4 to 2. This was rather disappointing to me, and I am sure it was to Atari more so, because I always thought this was a pretty slick-looking machine.

Released in 1983, the 1200XL seemed to be a computer without an audience and the press was warning people to stay away.

We’re hard pressed to figure out what Atari is up to … We’re concerned about the emperor’s new clothes because the actual features of the XL seem off base when compared to the competition. For example, the Atari 800 [less than $700] … we’re concerned that the 1200XL has been introduced to fill a nonexistent hole in Atari’s product line.


On paper though, the machine looks nice. Although perhaps not enough to differentiate it from other Atari computers. It had 64 KB of RAM, built-in self test, a redesigned keyboard with four function keys and a HELP key, and a redesigned cable port layout.

Announced with a $1000 price, the 1200XL was released at $899. This was $100 less than the announced price of the 800 at its release in 1979, but the 800 was still available and still very good. It also had a much better price. So many people steered clear of this machine.

The story goes that because they 800 has a lower price point. There was a rush on them, resulting in a bump in sales for the existing machine, while the new machine languished. This is an oft repeated story in technology. Although I tend to question its credibility since I can never find statistics for sales on these older machines that bear this out.

I want to comment on the face of the guy watching the computer in use. It looks silly, but I think through much of the eighties this is probably what I looked like whenever I was around computers…just a big ol’ goofy toothy grin.


The Retroist

Editor/Podcaster at Retroist
The Retroist is like a BBQ on a bun without the bones. You're only human daddy. Chomp!

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