BBC micro:bit educational gadget finally launches

March 22, 2016 // 10:46 a.m.

Tags: #acorn-proton #arm #bbc #bbc-micro #coding #cortex-m0 #education #led #micro-bit #microbit #microcontroller #programming #simon-segars #uk

Following several delays due to hardware issues, the BBC's educational micro:bit has finally launched with Year 7 pupils across the country set to receive their hardware today.

Unveiled in March last year as the Micro Bit and with a design heavily based on the rival CodeBug, the path to launch for the BBC micro:bit has not been smooth. The company's announcement that it would be giving away the microcontroller device to all Year 7 pupils in the UK as part of its Make It Digital initiative generated a wave of interest which was quickly dampened when it admitted that the aggressive October launch schedule would be missed owing to issues with the power circuitry in the card-like redesign. In January this year the device would once again be delayed, but the broadcaster and its industry partners are now putting those troubles behind them with the formal launch today.

Based on a system-on-chip Bluetooth controller equipped with an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, the micro:bit offers Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) and USB connectivity, three easily-accessible general-purpose input-output (GPIO) ports plus 20 more accessible using expansion devices and breakout boards, two buttons, an accelerometer, magnetic compass, and a 5x5 red LED matrix as a display. Unlike the BBC's last highly successful attempt to bring computing educations to schools, the Acorn Proton which became the popular BBC Micro, the device is a microcontroller designed to be used alongside existing computing devices as a means of bringing programming away from the screen and out into the real world.

'The BBC Micro started me on my journey towards a career in technology and the BBC micro:bit can have the same effect on children receiving their devices from today,' claimed Simon Segars, ARM chief executive, of the launch. 'The ability to code is now as important as grammar and mathematics skills and it can unlock important new career options. I can easily imagine a new wave of design entrepreneurs looking back and citing today as the day their passion for technology began.'

Although the official launch takes place today, it may be some weeks before all pupils and teachers have received their hardware. The BBC has also yet to announce commercial availability and pricing for those who do not qualify for the give-away.
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