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BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware (bbc.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions. The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC. About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year. Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intended to co-ordinate a wider rollout. "Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology," said the foundations' new chief executive Zach Shelby. "That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years." His organization plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand. Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware. TrixX adds: The makers of the BBC micro:bit have announced that they are releasing the full specs for the device under an open license, (SolderPad License, similar to Apache License but for hardware). This means that anyone can legally use the specs and build their own device, or fork the reference design GitHub repo and design their derivatives.
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BBC Micro Bit Mini-Computer To Expand Internationally With New Hardware

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  • Not a minicomputer (Score:4, Informative)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @09:09PM (#53112233) Homepage Journal

    This is not a minicomputer. It's a microcomputer. Thus the name.
    A minicomputer is typically the size of a small fridge, and were named so because they were much smaller than the big ones.

    • A good way to refer to it would be as a picocomputer.

    • by johnw ( 3725 )

      A minicomputer is typically the size of a small fridge,

      More the size of a large fridge. A small modern fridge is about the size of a PC. Towards the very end of the mini-computer era, DEC did produce some that kind of size, but your typical mini-computer occupied one to four cabinets, each about 4' or 6' tall. The term mini-computer distinguished them from mainframes, which tended to need a whole room.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        More the size of a large fridge. A small modern fridge is about the size of a PC. Towards the very end of the mini-computer era, DEC did produce some that kind of size, but your typical mini-computer occupied one to four cabinets, each about 4' or 6' tall.

        The first popular minicomputer, the PDP/8, was not that big - about 6U size, I'd guess?
        Of course, to be useful, you would normally combine it with a couple of side-by-side upright expansion chassies stacked on top, like for tape drive and IO, which would triple or quadruple the height.

    • by bn-7bc ( 909819 )
      Thank yoy, i was about to write the same, a more correct way to reffere to the Micro-bit would be as a small form facror computer or a single board computer, calling it a mini vomputer is just plain wrong. Signed. Grumpy 46 year old
    • by hughbar ( 579555 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @02:22AM (#53113261) Homepage
      I think it's a micro-controller actually. One program at a time, no operating system, just load/run. It's therefore similar to the Arduino.

      As a Brit, I'm very annoyed by this, they could have just got behind the Arduino (for example) but no that was apparently NIH (Not Invented Here) so they've spent a lot of public money on this.

      I do a certain amount of school volunteering and this is another thing that fragments attention and class time. I would have preferred full-fat pupil owned Raspberry Pis for example, a little more expensive but an order of magnitude more capable. Still the BBC is a law unto itself.
      • by DrXym ( 126579 )

        I do a certain amount of school volunteering and this is another thing that fragments attention and class time. I would have preferred full-fat pupil owned Raspberry Pis for example, a little more expensive but an order of magnitude more capable. Still the BBC is a law unto itself.

        And a magnitude more of a pain in the ass to set up. To use this Pi, the pupil would require - a monitor or TV, an HDMI cable, a USB mouse & keyboard, a network connection or wifi dongle, a PSU, a charger, an SD card, and a very patient teacher and set of parents capable of setting this all up and transferring files for grading and exercises.

        The micro:bit needs a usb cable. It can be programmed with a smart phone, tablet or a computer. You don't even need to use a physical micro bit in because the sof

        • by hughbar ( 579555 )

          And a magnitude more of a pain in the ass to set up. To use this Pi, the pupil would require - a monitor or TV, an HDMI cable, a USB mouse & keyboard, a network connection or wifi dongle, a PSU, a charger, an SD card, and a very patient teacher and set of parents capable of setting this all up and transferring files for grading and exercises.

          Actually I worked last year with one school that was successfully doing this. You don't really want switched-on smart phones in class, anyway, so you're obliged

          • by DrXym ( 126579 )

            Actually I worked last year with one school that was successfully doing this. You don't really want switched-on smart phones in class, anyway, so you're obliged to hook the micro:bit to a 'computer' (of some kind), as with the Arduino if you want to do any programming.

            You're not obliged to hook up the micro:bit to a computer. As I said it can be a smartphone, tablet or computer. It presents a range of options both for classwork and homework that aren't there for the Pi. When they go home they can make use of what's available, be it a phone, tablet or computer. At the school they could use tablets or computers.

            Objectively, setting up a Pi is way more effort in almost every way.

            As for Microsoft, yes they got a look-in but so what? Kids program in a Scratch-a-like or in

            • I don't think Microsoft are being especially nefarious.

              The first rule of Slash Club is that Microsoft are always wrong.

              • by hughbar ( 579555 )
                No, not necessarily, but I don't agree with seeing them in the middle of this particular project. Commercial enterprise, just fine.
      • As a Brit, I'm very annoyed by this, they could have just got behind the Arduino (for example) but no that was apparently NIH (Not Invented Here) so they've spent a lot of public money on this.

        How much though?

        Thing is, it's not a complicated board. I actually work on bluetooth stuff for a living and knocking up a uC, accelerometer and a few other bits and bobs on a circuit board is very seriously not hard. It's sufficiently not hard that I did a custom one as a favour for someone recently. When I say it's r

        • by hughbar ( 579555 )
          First, thanks for taking the time on this. I'm grateful for the detailed info on the guts of the thing.

          They are a *lot* more expensive. The RPi doesn't come with much out of the box. You need a PSU (many USB ports don't give out enough juice), an SD card, and probably a screen and keyboard to get going. This device is much more arduino like. They're not really comparable at all.

          Yes, I'm aware of that. Actually these are being pushed 'free' in limited numbers. But, actually, in pre-history the BBC Acorn co

          • But, actually, in pre-history the BBC Acorn computer (which was the beginning of ARM) was expensive too.

            True: it was about 5x the price of a ZX81 for example, though of course they weren't given away to pupils, they were destined for classroom use and the BBC Micro was much, much more physically robust than a ZX81.

            I suppose what matters most is what the intended (and actual) use of the devices are and unfortunately it sounds a little half-cocked in the case of the Micro:bit.

      • As a Brit, I'm very annoyed by this, they could have just got behind the Arduino (for example) but no that was apparently NIH (Not Invented Here) so they've spent a lot of public money on this.

        Why would you be upset about a segment of the government that is self sustaining and funded from their own licenses building a system that is far simpler to start with and developed relationships with groups that will ultimately be key to getting this to work.

        Do you think they spent public money developing a board? That can be done in an afternoon by a university student. What they spent money on is partnerships and contracts which would have been identical if not more expensive had they gone the Arudino ro

    • We used to call this a "single board computer" back in the day.
  • by itamblyn ( 867415 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2016 @09:23PM (#53112303) Homepage
    The rest of the article is actually pretty interesting. It sounds like there wasn't a clear plan (or at least the teachers weren't onboard) about how to work these into the classroom. OLPC had this problem too - tech people thought you could just hand out shiny things and everything would work out. It frequently doesn't work like this in the education setting. To be clear, BBC:Micro bit is really neat, and I think it will be useful, but it seems like figuring out how to effectively use stuff like this in the classroom continues to be a hard problem.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      A better programming game for students to practice on is a clone of the 'Sims', tied into a programming language to tweak and control their behaviour. You have a wide range of complexity, you can also teach social issues plus simulate all those various other activities of changing from a child to becoming an adult. Traffic rules and controls come into play, managing a household, economic management can be modelled etc.

      The programming of human relatable activity, would promote learning. Being more graphic

      • by Anonymous Coward

        We had the BBC micros in school in the 80s and that is the approach they took then.
        Theyvhooked them up to a mechanical set called loco (if I remember right) that allowed you to drive little car thingies with the BBC.

        Was very cool for the time

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re " how to effectively use stuff like this in the classroom continues to be a hard problem."
      The problem is teaching math and science and now computing to all students and hoping to get different results.
      A generation of teachers want to be seen as been inclusive so the whole class has to slow down and write code, create apps, build robots.
      The new idea is to get entire grades all learning "computers" and "code" so they can all have an equal chance at enjoying math and all write apps or build robots.
      Just
  • BBC Micro bit... Ridiculous!
  • The kids love it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SirJorgelOfBorgel ( 897488 ) on Thursday October 20, 2016 @02:41AM (#53113319)

    My girlfriend works with kids in the target age group, they love playing around with this. Their web code tools aren't half bad either - my girlfriend now understands the basics of code (so this is what you do all day eh? well, not exactly...)

    • I was pretty sceptical about the Micro bit when it was announced. It seemed under-specced compared to all the other small board computers out there.

      I was wrong. Talking to people who actually use them to teach, they (teachers and kids) love them. The combination of the on-board screen, accelerometer etc, and the toolchain all combine to make it really quick to get going and build something simple but fun. Like the old 8-bit micros, you can get going almost instantly.

      Obviously they have limits, and something

  • "A lot of projects in Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are oftentimes aimed at boys - rocket cars for example," commented Mr Shelby.

    Is Mr. Shelby from Saudi Arabia? :-p

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. Seek simplicity and distrust it. -- Whitehead.

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