|Atari Falcon 030||Amiga 1200|
|Processor||Motorola MC68030||Motorola MC68EC020|
|Bus width||16 bit||32 bit|
|FPU||Optional MC68881 or MC68882 co processor||None (Available with several 3rd party upgrades)|
|Battery backed clock||Yes||No (Available as 3rd party upgrade)|
|Standard RAM||Available with 1MB, 4MB or 14MB but most machines shipped with 4MB||2MB|
|Sound||8 channel 16bit stereo with 3 channel programmable sound generator||4 channel 8bit stereo|
|Floppy Drive||1.44MB High Density||880KB Double Density|
|Hard Drive||Optional 2.5 inch IDE drive||Optional 2.5 inch IDE drive|
|External Connectors||Video (Different monitor ports available with adapters, eg VGA)|
Enhanced analogue joystick
RF Connector for TV
RF Connector for TV
|Internal Expansion||RAM socket|
Internal Processor bus connector
|Operating System||TOS 4.0X in ROM, MultiTOS on disk||Kickstart on ROM, Workbench on disk|
|Chipset||Custom Atari chipset||Custom Amiga AGA chipset|
|Support Processors||MC56001 DSP|
|Custom AGA processors, including BLiTTER|
Table of Contents
Atari Falcon vs Amiga 1200
The Atari Falcon and the Amiga 1200 were both popular home computers released in the early 1990s. While the Falcon was the successor to Atari’s ST line, the Amiga 1200 was an attempt by Commodore to revive the ailing Amiga platform. Both computers had similarities and differences that made them appealing to different users.
History and Background
- Released in 1992 as a replacement for the Atari ST computer line
- Used Motorola’s 16 MHz 68030 processor and had an optional 68882 math co-processor
- Came with 14 MHz DSP processor for digital audio and video processing
- Had up to 14MB of RAM and an internal IDE hard drive option
- Ran Atari’s TOS/GEM operating system
- Marketed as a general purpose computer and multimedia workstation
- Launched in 1992 as a low-cost successor to the Amiga 500 and 2000
- Used Motorola’s 14 MHz 68EC020 processor and 2 MB of RAM
- Shipped with a 2.5″ hard drive expansion bay and PCMCIA slot
- Ran AmigaOS 3.0 and later versions of the operating system
- Targeted towards home users and video game players
Processor and Performance
- The Falcon’s 16 MHz 68030 CPU gave it more pure processing power than the Amiga 1200’s 14 MHz 68EC020.
- The 68030 could address more RAM (up to 14MB compared to 8MB on the Amiga).
- The Falcon’s DSP provided hardware acceleration for audio, video, and graphical tasks.
- Both systems had optional math co-processors for improved numerical performance.
- Overall, the Falcon had the edge in raw CPU performance.
Memory and Storage
- The base Falcon model came with 1MB of RAM, expandable to 14MB.
- The Amiga 1200 had 2MB of RAM out of the box, expandable to 8MB.
- For storage, the Falcon typically had a hard drive. The Amiga 1200 initially used floppy disks until the hard drive add-on became available.
- The Falcon could support larger and faster hard drives than the Amiga.
Graphics and Sound
- The Falcon featured superior graphics capabilities to the Amiga 1200:
- It could display up to 640×480 resolution with 16-bit color.
- The Amiga was limited to 640×256 or 320×256 at 4,096 colors.
- The 14 MHz DSP gave the Falcon an advantage for audio and video playback.
- Both systems had good quality sound for the era using 8-bit stereo sampling.
Expandability and Ports
- The Falcon had expansion slots for adding peripherals like RAM, graphics, and sound cards.
- The Amiga 1200 had just one internal expansion slot.
- Both systems had ports for floppy disk drives, keyboards, and mice.
- The Amiga 1200 had the edge with two serial ports to the Falcon’s one.
Physical Size and Power
- The Falcon was a large desktop unit, while the Amiga 1200 had a compact keyboard-attached case.
- Despite its small footprint, the Amiga 1200 required an external power supply brick.
- The Falcon integrated the power supply into the main chassis.
Software and Operating System
OS Features and Capabilities
- The Falcon ran Atari’s TOS/GEM operating system.
- The Amiga 1200 used AmigaOS, which featured preemptive multitasking.
- AmigaOS had advanced audio and video features for the time.
- Both OS’s had graphical user interfaces, but AmigaOS’s Workbench was more advanced.
Software Libraries and Support
- There was a robust software ecosystem for the Amiga platform.
- Software selections for the Falcon were more limited.
- The Amiga had excellent graphics, video production, and audio software.
- The Falcon software focused on office apps, programming tools, and productivity.
- The Amiga 1200 had an extensive game library and was a more capable gaming machine.
- The Falcon lacked native gaming support despite its enhanced graphics and sound capabilities.
- Most games for the Falcon were straight ports from the Atari ST.
Programming and Development
- Both systems supported development in languages like C and assembly.
- The Amiga had a larger developer community writing commercial software.
- The Falcon appealed more to hobbyist programmers.
Reception and Legacy
Sales and Market Share
- The Amiga 1200 sold over 2 million units between its launch in 1992 and discontinuation in 1996.
- The Falcon saw very limited sales, totaling only around 100,000 units sold.
- The Amiga 1200 helped keep the Commodore Amiga platform alive into the mid-1990s.
- The Falcon did not make a major impact for Atari, which faded from the computer market.
Community and Following
- The Amiga still retains a devoted user base to this day. The Amiga 1200 remains popular among retrogamers.
- The Falcon did not take off as a major computing platform. But it still has an enthusiast following among Atari fans.
Impact on Future Systems
- The Amiga 1200 was the final Commodore Amiga computer before the company went bankrupt. Its legacy lived on through AmigaOS and the later AmigaOne systems.
- The Falcon’s multimedia capabilities and DSP processor influenced future computer designs from other companies.
Emulation and Use Today
- Emulated versions of both the Falcon and Amiga 1200 allow the systems to be recreated in software today.
- Vintage systems remain in use by retrogaming enthusiasts and fans of early 90s computing.
- New games and demoscene productions are still made for both platforms.
In summary, while the Atari Falcon boasted impressive specifications for the time, the Amiga 1200 proved more successful in the marketplace due to the Amiga’s superior operating system, software library, and gaming support. The Falcon pioneered some innovative features, but failed to displace Atari’s ST line or make a major dent versus rival platforms. Both systems remain iconic examples of early 1990s home computing and are still used today by vintage computer fans.
Why was the Atari Falcon less successful than the Amiga 1200?
The main reasons for the Falcon’s lack of success compared to the very popular Amiga 1200 include:
- Much smaller software library and game selections due to smaller user base
- Less developer support since the Amiga was more widely used
- No backward compatibility with Atari ST software
- Released late in the 16-bit computer era as gaming was transitioning to consoles
- Higher price tag than competing systems like the Amiga 1200
- Delays and false starts for underpowered initial models hurt momentum
- Atari lacked marketing and sales presence of a major company like Commodore
What were the most advanced features of the Falcon?
The Falcon introduced several innovative technologies:
- 16 MHz 68030 CPU offered great performance for the era
- 14 MHz DSP provided advanced audio/video capabilities
- Up to 14MB of RAM exceeded contemporaries
- Super VGA graphics with 16-bit color
- Internal IDE hard drive support
- Digital audio outputs
Why does the Amiga 1200 retain a following today?
The Amiga 1200’s ongoing popularity is due to:
- Large library of classic Amiga games from the late 80s/early 90s
- Ability to utilize accelerators and expansions for enhanced specs
- Active demo and creative scene around Amiga graphics and music
- Support for updates like AmigaOS 3.9 and PowerPC accelerators
- Stylish, compact design that exemplifies the era of 16-bit computing
- Relatively affordable and easy to repair compared to other vintage systems
What are the most common repairs needed on the Falcon and Amiga 1200 today?
Common repairs for these systems include:
- Replacing failed electrolytic capacitors on motherboards
- Fixing broken keyboard membranes
- Swapping out dead floppy drives or hard disks
- General cleaning of case, keyboard, and internals
- Reseating connectors and daughterboards
- Refurbishing power supplies
- Upgrading RAM and clock crystal for optimal performance
Proper maintenance and repairs can keep both the Falcon and Amiga 1200 running for many more years past their original lifetimes. The communities around these retro platforms provide documentation and parts to bring these systems back to full functionality.
atari falcon games