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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved



Amiga CD1200 Prototype

Developer: Commodore
Year of demonstration: April 1994

Black CD1200 case

Following the launch of the CD32, Commodore had made it clear that there was always the intention to release an official CD drive for the A1200 & A4000. The demonstration of the CD1200 model at the CeBIT '94 show was a fulfillment of this promise. Unfortunately for Commodore it also became the last project to be demonstrated before the company filed for liquidation. Numerous writers picked upon the fact that its appearance at the show was a last minute decision, highlighted by its omission from the press information. The story on these events has never fully came to light, it is known that many Commodore executives were critical of the absence of FMV (Full Motion Video) support for the CD1200. In particular, Commodore UK managing director, David Pleasance commented in several magazines that he disliked the idea of selling a CD drive that would never support FMV. This could have delayed its announcement until the last minute.

Keeping up appearances

Two variants of the CD1200 are known to exist - a grey and off-white model. It is likely that the grey model was an early prototype while the white model is a later version. The drive uses a different disc locking mechanism to the CD32 and is a sharp contrast to the Zappo PCMCIA drive available at the time. An interface module connects to the trapdoor expansion slot and a cable attaches this to the 'Data In' port on the back of the CD1200. This prevents the use of an accelerator or memory board. Instead, a Simm socket is available on the CD-ROM to take additional memory. However, those who needed a faster processor would have been out of luck.

It is clear that the CD1200 was intended to be purely a way of allowing A1200 owners to run CD32 games, without the hassle of buying another machine. In this area the CD1200 stands head and shoulders above its competition. While third parties were forced to provide software emulation, the CD1200 contained the much needed Akiko chunky-to-planar chip to provide complete compatibility with CD32 games that accessed this hardware (in theory). The reality was that some games that bypassed the operating system would not work.


Release Date
While the unit demonstrated was clearly a prototype, it was expected to go on sale in Germany during May 1994 for DM 500. This would be followed in September 1994 by its release in the UK for an expected price of 199 UKP. This fueled concerns that another CD32 price cut would make the device too expensive to run CD32 games when the real thing was a similar, or even cheaper price.

What happened?
The demise of Commodore Electronics and the closure of almost every subsidiary resulted in the project being canceled and the prototype scrapped. When Escom bought the Amiga, Amiga Technologies launched their own official CD drive. This time they got it right, rebadging a third party PCMCIA CD-ROM drive and selling it as their own.

The design of the device is noticeably inferior to third party models proving that Commodore had not thought of the implications of their construction. The custom interface would have made the drive more expensive than third party units that used standard IDE CD-ROM drives and a small PCMCIA interface (such as the Archos Zappo). The connection to the Amiga trapdoor expansion slot would also make it impossible to attach an accelerator or Zorro breakout board later. The only advantage it had was the official Commodore branding and the promise of 100% hardware compatibility. However, the prototype unit demonstrates that even with the addition of an Akiko chip, it is likely that many games would have remained uncooperative.
If the CD1200 had been released it would most likely have been another financial disaster for Commodore that would have further damaged its reputation and its ability to remain viable.

White CD1200 attached to the A1200 (5.87k) | White CD1200 logo close-up (10.6k) | White CD1200 connectors (39K) | CD1200 cover on Amiga Format May 1994 (155k) Grey CD1200 backend (27k)

Grey CD1200 images are ©1999-2000 Ryan E. A. Czerwinski, All Rights Reserved, Used with permission
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Last Update: 8/3/2002

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