The BBC’s new Micro:bit computer will ‘inspire a generation to code’

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The BBC has dispatched up to 1 million of the micro:bit, its credit card-sized computers, to all children

in Year 7 across the UK.


The micro:bit, which is the modern descendant of the 1980s mini-computer the BBC micro,  is a small,

low cost computer designed to teach children how to code. It is made up of processors and sensors – the

raw materials of a computer -but can be programmed in a number of ways.


The goal is to teach kids to program and create their own games on the tiny device.


“We wanted to try to create something that would ultimately help tackle the skills gap in the UK when it

comes to the tech sector,” said Sinead Rocks, the head of the BBC micro:bit project.


“Children have many devices. They’re used to using tablets and smartphones. We wanted to do

something that transformed them from being passive users, to teach them something about what they

use on a daily basis.”


Up to one million of the devices are being given for free to all year seven pupils across the UK, including

those who are home schooled, at private schools, and at state schools.


The micro:bit was supposed to be released back in September, but delayed five months due to hardware

issues and problems with the power supply. However, the children will permanently own the computers,

so the delay on the micro:bit’s release doesn’t affect the pupils’ time with it, said Rocks.


What can I do with my BBC micro:bit? 


Watch Video:


The micro:bit is similar to the Raspberry Pi, but is designed to be an entry level product for children that

don’t have any previous experience, or even interest, in coding.


“It creates that first step for children who may not have known that they had an interest in coding,” said



It has 25 red LED lights, and children can code it so text or designs are projected onto the lights,

displaying messages. It also has Bluetooth capability, edge connectors, an accelerometer, a built-in

compass, and a magnetometer.


The micro:bit can be programmed to become anything from a game to a smart watch or fitness

tracker.  It can be connected to other devices like a television, to sensors, and even computers, such as

the Raspberry Pi and Arduino.


Teachers, who received micro:bits ahead of the children and who have started experimenting with them,

have created games, used the bluetooth function to control an MP3 player, and connected it to

headphones, according to Rocks.


One class sent a micro:bit into near space in a weather balloon, and another created a limbo pole using

its motion sensor. It has also been used to measure the dampness of soil, and to create a selfie remote



“We wanted to create something that would surprise us,” said Rocks. “It’s really been gratifying to see

that happening so early on in the initiative in the variety of ways it’s already being used.”


The BBC partnered with 31 companies on the Make It Digital project,  including technology

giants Samsung and Microsoft, are running workshops on how to use the device. Samsung has also

released an app that lets owners code on the go. And the BBC will be holding a series of live lessons on

its website about how to use the computer.


How is it different from the BBC micro?


BBC Micro


The micro:bit takes inspiration from the BBC micro of the 1980s.


“Our ultimate ambition was to create something that had the same sense of energy and ambition that the

micro did in the 80s,” said Rocks. The micro:bit is smaller, faster, lighter and more adaptable than the

micro was. “It’s a replacement fit for this new tech era that we’re in.”


The BBC micro came out when computing was a fairly new concept, and was designed to teach the UK

what computers could be used to achieve. Now, the power of computers is ubiquitous, but most people

don’t understand how to control them, how the back end works. This is where the micro:bit comes in.


“The BBC micro:bit has the potential to be a seminal piece of British innovation” – Tony Hall, Director-

General, BBC




“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,” said Simon Segars, chief executive

of ARM, the Cambridge-based company who’s hardware and software development kits were used to

create the micro:bit.


“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.”


The hardware and much of the software behind the micro:bit will soon be made open source, and the

devices will also go on sale to the general public.


“The BBC micro:bit has the potential to be a seminal piece of British innovation, helping this generation

to be the coders, programmers and digital pioneers of the future,” said Tony Hall, the director general of

the BBC.