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Here comes the BBC Micro Bit, the tiny board that wants to surpass the BBC Micro

One million of the programmable boards will be given to schoolchilden, as part of a project backed by ARM, Microsoft, Samsung, and more.
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1 of 4 Image: BBC

This is the BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized computer which the BBC says is its most ambitious technology initiative since the launch of the BBC Micro computer back in the 1980s.

As many as one million micro:bits will be given to every 11- or 12-year-old child - in year 7 or equivalent - across the UK, for free.

In the 1980s, the BBC Micro introduced many children to computing for the first time – and is credited with creating a generation of tech entrepreneurs. The BBC hopes the micro:bit will similarly inspire young people to develop skills in science, technology, and engineering.

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2 of 4 Image: BBC

Each element of the BBC micro:bit can be programmed via the soon-to-be-launched microbit.co.uk website.

The BBC said that simple projects - like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern – can be completed in seconds with no prior knowledge of computing. The board can connect to other devices, sensors, and kits for more complex projects.

The micro:bit's features include 25 LEDs which can light up or flash messages.

Two programmable buttons will allow, for example, the micro:bit to be used as a games controller or to pause or skip songs on a playlist.

It also includes an accelerometer, magnetometer, Bluetooth, and five Input/Output rings to connect the micro:bit to devices or sensors.

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3 of 4 Image BBC

Sinead Rocks, head of BBC Learning, says: "We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience - it should be exactly the same with technology."

The BBC is the overall editorial and project lead for the micro:bit. Companies involved with the project include ARM, which is providing the mbed hardware, software development kits, and compiler services; Freescale, which is supplying the sensors and USB controllers; and Microsoft, which is providing the TouchDevelop web-based programming tools and hosting service. Samsung is working on connecting the BBC micro:bit to phones and tablets, and on developing the Android app. Lancaster University is creating and writing the micro:bit runtime.

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4 of 4 Image: BBC

The BBC micro:bit will start to arrive in schools in late October and the plan is to deliver up to one million micro:bits before the end of the year.

The technical specifications for the device will be open-sourced, and the partnership plans to collectively develop a not-for-profit company which will see the devices on sale in the UK and internationally later this year.

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