1200XL is the only system to emerge from Atari's Sweet 8 (aka Liz NY) and Sweet 16 projects, which were intended to produce challenging products against the rivals Commodore, Apple and Tandy – the market leaders at the turn of the 1980s.
The initial plan was to introduce two computer models, 1000 and 1000X, from the same base design – just like Atari had done previously with 400 and 800. However, Atari decided to cancel the approach in favour of a hybrid system, called the 1200XL, which would fuse features from both Sweet 8 and 16.
The 20-page original Atari flyer from 1983 goes into many special features and details.
If anything, the brand new system, which launched in March 1983, looked the part with its professional, high-tech design by Regan Cheng of Atari's Industrial Design group. In fact, many still consider 1200XL's keyboard one of the best, if not the best in any Atari computer before or since. The elegant shell played host to familiar chips and features from the Atari 800, but upped the ante with 16 KB more of RAM, meaning it reached a total of 64 KB.
For the press, and eventually the customers, the amount of memory, nice keyboard or sleek-looking design was simply not enough of a reason to invest nearly $900, especially when Atari 800 offered most of the same features but in a much more affordable package. The final nail in the coffin was the lacklustre operating system and puzzling port design, which rendered some peripherals incompatible.
Atari ran the production of 1200XL for only about half a year before discontinuing it in June 1983. The PAL version was never produced.