The Micro Bit

12 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BBC Micro Bit will complement Raspberry Pi not compete with it.

In a move that will bring a nostalgic smile to some British kids (and teachers) of the 80s, the BBC has annunced that it is to produce a new educational mini-computer — codenamed the ‘Micro Bit’, a play on the broadcasters original ‘BBC Micro‘ computer — and will give way 1 million devices to British school kids aged 11.Tony Hall was speaking after he unveiled details of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative, a partnership with 50 organisations, including Google, Microsoft and Samsung, that will give ‘micro bit’ coding devices – around 1m of them – to every 11-year-old in the country.The BBC’s new Micro Bit programmable device is designed to complement computers like the Raspberry Pi rather than compete with them, according to people involved with the project.

The BBC will launch a season of programmes and online activity, including a drama based on Grand Theft Auto and tie-ups with Doctor Who, EastEnders, and Radio 1. “Just as we did with the BBC Micro in the 1980s, we want to inspire the digital visionaries of the future. The 1980s personal computer was too expensive to truly democrotise computer programming, often seeing only a handful of devices purchased by each school. The Micro Bit is an embedded software platform, so it doesn’t run a full operating system,” added Gary Atkinson, director of emerging technologies at Arm, which is one of the hardware companies involved in the project. Hall said he hoped the initiative would help solve the UK’s technology skills shortage, with predictions that the country would require 1.4 million “digital professionals” over the next five years. But I digress… The other issue with the original BBC Micro was that, despite involving a tendering process that saw multiple computer-makers bid to produce the device, the broadcaster’s decision to partner with Acorn Computing angered competitors, particularly the ZX Spectrum founder Sir Clive Sinclair.

An SDK from Apple allows you to build an app for an iPhone, but you have no idea: all you’re doing is basically calling APIs within the phone. ‘I want a reading from the GPS’ and so on,” said Atkinson. “In an embedded environment, you literally have to make those calls. It will sport a 5×5 LED display that can be used to scroll letters and flash, among other features. “It’s going to be small enough and light enough that it will fasten to clothing. However, the PR related to the device is keen to pitch the hardware as a ‘gateway drug’ to more sophisticated educational and hobby computing, such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

It will be a standalone, entry-level coding device that allows children to pick it up, plug it into a computer and start creating with it immediately. That’s very interesting and we all need to know, but that’s not going to help us get a job.” What about children who aren’t in year seven this year, though? At some point, as yet unspecified, they’ll be able to get their hands on a Micro Bit too. “Every child who gets given one will be able to take it home and use it there.

Helping children collaborate on their coding appears to be high on the agenda, though. “The device is equivalent to an Internet of Things-type device. Many years ago I sat in on a private meeting between commercial broadcasters and others in the digital learning space, and the BBC was enemy number one. Arm’s manufacturing and distribution partners on the project include Barclays, Freescale, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, Samsung, element14, ScienceScope and Technology Will Save Us. BBC Learning’s Gareth Stockdale is quoted by BBC News as saying: “The BBC’s role is to bring focus to the issue, and then we will withdraw from the market.”

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