Amiga 1200

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Amiga 1200
Amiga 1200 with mouse, drives.jpg
Manufacturer Commodore International, Amiga Technologies GmbH
Type Personal computer
Release date October 1992 (1992-10)
Discontinued 1996
Operating system AmigaOS 3.0/3.1
CPU Motorola 68EC020 @ 14 MHz
Memory 2 MB
Predecessor Amiga 600

The Amiga 1200, or A1200 (code-named 'Channel Z'), was Commodore International's third-generation Amiga computer, aimed at the home market. It was launched on October 21, 1992, at a base price of £399 in the United Kingdom and $599 in the United States.

History[edit]

Like its predecessor, the Amiga 500, the A1200 is an all-in-one design incorporating the CPU, keyboard, and disk drives (including the option of an internal 2.5" hard disk drive) in one physical unit. The A1200 has a similar hardware architecture to Commodore's Amiga CD32 game console, and is technically close to the Atari Falcon, which was intended as the A1200's competitor.[1]

Initially, only 30,000 A1200s were available at the UK launch.[2] During the first year of its life the system reportedly sold well, but Commodore ran into cash flow problems and filed for bankruptcy.[3] World wide sales figures for the A1200 are unknown but 95,000 systems were sold in Germany before Commodore's bankruptcy.[4]

After Commodore’s demise in 1994 the A1200 almost disappeared from the market but was later re-launched by Escom in 1995. The new Escom A1200 was priced at £399 and it came bundled with two games, seven applications and Amiga OS 3.1.[5] It was initially criticized for being priced 150 pounds higher than the Commodore variant had sold for two years prior. It also came with a modified PC floppy disk drive that was incompatible with some Amiga software. The A1200 was finally discontinued in 1996 as the parent company folded.[6]

Design Improvements[edit]

The A1200 offers a number of advantages over earlier budget Amiga models. Specifically, it is a 32-bit design, the 68EC020 microprocessor is faster than the 68000 and has 2 MB of RAM as standard. The AGA chipset used in the A1200 is a significant improvement. AGA increases the color palette from 4096 colors to 16.8 million colors with up to 256 on-screen colors and an improved HAM mode allowing 262,144 on-screen colors. The graphics hardware also features improved sprite capacity and faster graphics performance mainly due to faster video memory. Additionally, compared to the A600 the A1200 offered greater expansion possibilities.

Popularity and Criticism[edit]

Although it was a significant upgrade, the A1200 did not sell as well as the earlier Amiga 500 and proved to be Commodore's last budget model before filing for bankruptcy in 1994. This was mainly because the A1200 failed to repeat the technological advantage over competitors like the first Amiga systems. The AGA chipset was something of a disappointment. Commodore had initially been working on a much improved version of the original Amiga chipset, codenamed "AAA", but when development fell behind they rushed out the less improved AGA found on A1200, A4000 and CD32 units. While AGA was not notably less capable than its competition, when compared to VGA and its emerging extensions, the Amiga no longer commanded the lead it had in earlier times. Additionally, the Amiga's custom chips cost more to produce than the increasingly ubiquitous commodity chips utilized in PCs, making the A1200 more expensive.[7] Some industry commentators also felt the 68020 microprocessor was already too outdated and that the new system should have been fitted with a 68030 to be competitive.

The gaming market, which had been a major factor in the A500's popularity, was becoming ever more competitive with the emergence of more advanced and less expensive fourth generation console gaming systems, and multimedia-enabled IBM PC compatibles. As a result, fewer retailers carried the A1200, especially in North America. The A1200 also received bad press for being incompatible with a number of Amiga 500 games. Further criticism was directed at the A1200's power supply which was often inadequate in expanded systems, limiting upgrade options that had been popular with earlier Amiga models. Due to less sales and short life-time, much fewer games were produced for A1200 than for previous generation of Amiga computers.

While Commodore never released any official sales figures, Commodore Frankfurt gave a figure of 95,000 Amiga 1200 systems sold in Germany.[4] Worldwide sales of A1200 should be less than 1 million units.[8]

Technical information[edit]

Processor and RAM[edit]

An Amiga 1200 main board

The A1200 has a Motorola 68EC020 CPU. It is noteworthy that, like the 68000, the 68EC020 has a 24-bit address space; allowing for a theoretical maximum of 16 MB of memory. A stock A1200 has 2 MB of inbuilt Chip RAM (Chip RAM cannot be expanded beyond 2 MB). Up to 8 MB of "fast" RAM can be added in the "trapdoor" expansion slot, which approximately doubles (~2.26×) the speed of a stock machine. Various CPU upgrades featuring 68020, 68030, 68040, 68060 and even PowerPC processors were made available by third-party developers. Such upgrades typically utilize faster and greater capacity memory (up to 256 MB).[9]

Graphics and sound[edit]

The A1200 shipped with Commodore's third-generation Amiga chipset, the Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA), which features improved graphical abilities in comparison to the earlier generations.

However, the sound hardware remains identical to the design used in the Amiga 1000, though the AGA chipset allows higher sampling rates for sound playback, either by using a video mode with higher horizontal scan rate or by using the CPU to drive audio output directly.

Peripherals and expansion[edit]

A Blizzard 1230 Mk III accelerator board

Like earlier models, the A1200 features several Amiga compatible connectors including two DE9M ports for joysticks, mice, and light pens, a standard 25-pin RS-232 serial port and a 25-pin Centronics parallel port. As a result, the A1200 was compatible with many existing Amiga peripherals, such as external floppy disk drives, MIDI interfaces, sound samplers and video digitizers.

Like the earlier Amiga 600 the A1200 features a PCMCIA Type II slot and an internal 44-pin ATA interface both most commonly seen on laptop computers. The A1200 has internal housing for one 2.5" internal hard disk drive connecting to the ATA controller, though it is also possible to accommodate slim 3.5" drives with suitable cabling and fixings. The 16-bit PCMCIA Type II interface allows use of a number of compatible peripherals available for the laptop market, though only 16-bit (Type II) PCMCIA cards are hardware compatible, newer 32-bit PC Card or CardBus peripherals are incompatible. The PCMCIA implementation is almost identical to the one featured on the earlier A600. A number of Amiga peripherals were released by third-party developers for this connector including SRAM cards, CD-ROM controllers, SCSI controllers, network cards, sound samplers and video digitizers. Later, a number of compatible laptop peripherals have been made to operate with this port including serial modems, wired and wireless network cards and CompactFlash adaptors.

In addition the A1200 features a 32-bit CPU/RAM expansion slot and a feature unique to the A1200, the so-called 'clock port'. The clock port is a remnant of an abandoned design feature for addition of internal RAM and a real time clock. Later, third-party developers put it to use by creating an array of expansions for the A1200, such as, I/O cards, audio cards[10] and even a USB controller.[11] Several CPU boards also have integrated SCSI controllers or even the option to add a graphics card.

One problematic factor for expanding the A1200 is the rather limited 23 watt power supply. Hard disks and even external floppy drives can stress the power supply leading to system instability. The problem can be mitigated by replacing the stock power supply with a higher rated supply, such as the one supplied with the A500.

The A1200 became a popular machine for 'modding'. If one is willing to forgo the A1200's form-fitting desktop case in exchange for further expansion options it is possible to re-house the hardware into alternative casing. Several third-party developers built and supplied popular kits to 'tower up' the A1200 and in essence convert it to a 'big box' Amiga. These expansion kits allow use of PC AT Keyboards, hard disk bays, CD-ROM drives, and Zorro II, Zorro III and PCI expansion slots. Such expansion slots made it possible to use devices not originally intended for the A1200, such as graphic, sound and network cards.

The revision of the A1200 manufactured by Escom was fitted with PC-based 'high density' floppy disk drives that had been downgraded to double density drives. This resulted in some software incompatibility (PC style drives do not supply a "ready" signal, which signals if there is a floppy in the disk drive.)[12] Escom released a free circuit upgrade to correct this issue.

Operating System[edit]

The first incarnation of the A1200 shipped with Workbench 3.0 and Kickstart 3.0 (revision 39.106), which together provide standard single-user operating system functionality and support for the built-in hardware. The later Amiga Technologies/Escom models shipped with Workbench 3.1 and Kickstart 3.1 (AmigaOS 3.1), though earlier A1200 models can be upgraded by installing compatible Kickstart 3.1 ROM chips. The later AmigaOS 3.5 and 3.9 releases are A1200 compatible as a software update requiring Kickstart 3.1.

AmigaOS 4, a PowerPC native release of the operating system, can be used with the A1200 provided Blizzard PPC PowerPC board is installed. Likewise, MorphOS, an alternative Amiga compatible operating system can be used with this hardware.

Variants of platform-independent operating systems such as Linux and BSD can also be used with the A1200.

Specifications[edit]

Attribute Specification[9]
Processor Motorola 68EC020 at 14.32 MHz (NTSC) or 14.18 MHz (PAL)
RAM MB Amiga Chip RAM

Upgradeable by further:

  • 8 MB in the expansion slot without CPU upgrade
  • 256 MB in the expansion slot with CPU upgrade
  • 4 MB in PCMCIA slot
ROM 512 kB Kickstart ROM
Chipset Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA)
Video 24-bit color palette (16.8 Million colors)

Up to 256 on-screen colors in indexed mode
262,144 on-screen colors in HAM-8 mode
Resolutions from:

  • 320×200 to 1280×400i (NTSC)
  • 320×256 to 1280×512i (PAL)
  • 640×480 (VGA)
  • 800×600i, 1024×768i (not officially supported)
Audio 4 × 8-bit PCM channels (2 stereo channels)

28–56 kHz maximum DMA sampling rate (dependent on video mode in use)

Removable storage 3.5" DD floppy disk drive (880 kB capacity)
Internal storage Housing for 2.5" IDE hard disk drive
Audio/video out Analog RGB video out (DB-23M)

Composite video out (RCA)
RF audio/video out (RCA)
Audio out (2 × RCA)

Input/output ports 2 × Mouse/Gamepad ports (DE9)

RS-232 serial port (DB-25M)
Centronics style parallel port (DB-25F)
Floppy disk drive port (DB-23F)
44-pin ATA controller supporting PIO-0 transfer mode (internal)
16-bit Type II PCMCIA slot

Expansion slots 150-pin local expansion port (trapdoor)

22-pin clockport

Operating system AmigaOS 3.0/3.1. (Kickstart 3.0-3.1/Workbench 3.0-3.1)
Physical dimensions 470 × 241 × 76.2 mm (W × D × H)

3.6 kg

Other Integrated keyboard with 96 keys (including 10 function keys)

Bundled software[edit]

Some software officially bundled with the A1200 included Deluxe Paint IV AGA (2D image and animation editor) and Final Copy (word processor).[13] The Amiga Technologies/Escom version was bundled with applications such as, Scala (multimedia authoring software) and Wordworth (word processor), and games like Pinball Mania and Whizz.[14]

In the UK the Amiga 1200 was available in a bundle known as the 'Desktop Dynamite' Pack which contained Workbench 3.0, Deluxe Paint IV AGA, Wordworth and two games: Oscar and Dennis.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Commodore Amiga 1200". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Amiga Format "New Amiga 1200" (Issue 41, December 1992)
  3. ^ "Chronological History of Commodore Computer". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Gareth Knight. "Commodore-Amiga Sales Figures". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  5. ^ "Amiga Magic bundle". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "Amiga III Technologies". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "The AAA Chipset". 
  8. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20070315100044/http://www.pegasus3d.com/total_share.html
  9. ^ a b A1200 User's Guide, Commodore Electronics Limited, 1992 
  10. ^ Delfina Installation manual, individual Computers Jens Schönfeld GmbH, 2003 
  11. ^ Subway USB Controller for Amiga, E3B, 2002 
  12. ^ Thor Bernhardsen. "Amiga floppy woes...". Retrieved July. 12, 2006.
  13. ^ Kevin J. Klasmeier. "Falcon030 -vs- 1200 -vs- Performa 400". Retrieved Oct. 20, 2006.
  14. ^ http://www.softhut.com/cgi-bin/test/Web_store/web_store.cgi?page=catalog/hardware/amiga/a1200.html