Atari 1200XL Computer

The Atari 1200XL was released by Atari Inc. in March 1983 as a successor to the still-popular Atari 800 8-bit computer. Although the 1200XL featured a modern case redesign and several technical improvements including 64K of RAM, recessed cartridge and controller ports, function-keys, and a built-in self test, the system soon became notorious for its lack of 100% software and hardware compatibility and substantially higher price. Negative press reviews and poor sales resulted in Atari discontinuing the ill-fated 1200XL in June 1983, only four months after its release.

The 1200XL (S/N 83SDA013143133) has the honor of being my first personal computer. Fueled by my interest in my uncle’s Atari 800, my dad purchased the 1200XL as a present from Computer Mail Order, but a back-order status delayed the system from shipping until what seemed like months later. In fact, it became a daily ritual to listen and wait for the UPS truck to drive down our street, hoping that it would stop this time instead of driving past.

Although Atari quickly released a Translator disk which allowed incompatible software to run successfully, the system’s shortcomings weren’t an issue for me. Atari cancelled the 1200XL and replaced it with the superior 800XL model, but my trusty 1200XL remained my computer of choice until the 16-bit 520ST came along a few years later. Ironically, the 1200XL has since become highly sought-after among vintage computer collectors due to its history and reputation.

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