The little board that has at times seemed so plagued with delays as to become the Duke Nukem Forever of small computers has finally shipped. A million or so British seventh-grade schoolchildren and their teachers will today start receiving their free BBC micro:bits.
Announced early last year, the plan was to rekindle the learning of code in schools through handing out a powerful and easy to program small computer to the students. The hope is that it will recapture the spirit of the 1980s, when school computing meant programming Acorn’s BBC Micro rather than learning how to use Microsoft Word.
Sadly the project has been delayed multiple times, the original target of last October was missed, and a revised estimate from January suggested they might ship at half-term (about four weeks ago). With only a few days to go before the Easter school holidays the kids will have to try them out at home, but at least they’re arriving.
The board itself sports an ARM Cortex M0, accelerometer, compass, switches, GPIOs, and an array of LEDs. Connectivity comes via Bluetooth Low Energy and USB. It’s an mbed at heart, so it is expandable beyond its child-friendly, web-based programming environment. We had an opportunity to look at one a few months ago, and it’s definitely a board we can see finding uses within the hacker and maker community.
Remembering the impact of the BBC Micro in the 1980s, it’s likely that there will be a hard core of kids who will take this thing and make it their own. For the rest, it may be a passing fancy, but at least those who are interested will have been presented with the opportunity. It’s likely that the board will go on general sale in due course, but cynical voices suggest that the really uninterested kids may put their micro:bits straight on eBay as soon as they get home. British schools open their doors sometime around half past three UK time. On your marks!
We’ve mentioned the micro:bit a few times over the past year here at Hackaday, its launch, a port of Python to the platform, and the recent launch of a programming app for Android, from Samsung. We look forward to seeing what the kids do with it. If you are a parent whose offspring has performed a cool hack with one then we’d love to see it over on Hackaday.io!