Computers

BBC to give away a million micro computers to coders of tomorrow

BBC to give away a million mic...
The BBC aims to ensure that every 11 year-old in the UK gets one of the "Micro Bit" mini development boards for free (Photo: BBC)
The BBC aims to ensure that every 11 year-old in the UK gets one of the "Micro Bit" mini development boards for free (Photo: BBC)
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The BBC Microcomputer, which the Corporation says helped Britain get to grips with the first wave of personal computers in the 1980s
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The BBC Microcomputer, which the Corporation says helped Britain get to grips with the first wave of personal computers in the 1980s
The BBC aims to ensure that every 11 year-old in the UK gets one of the "Micro Bit" mini development boards for free (Photo: BBC)
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The BBC aims to ensure that every 11 year-old in the UK gets one of the "Micro Bit" mini development boards for free (Photo: BBC)

By today's standards, early 1980s home computing was a very BASIC affair (excuse the pun). But for those who lived through it, it was an enlightening period of simple wonder and creative experimentation. In the UK, the odds are pretty good that students of code performed their programming magic using a big beige box connected to a chunky monitor known as the BBC Microcomputer. Many of those early digital tinkerers went on to careers in computing and it's this pioneering spirit that the BBC is hoping to recapture with the launch of a new education initiative named Make it Digital. At its center is a new micro computing platform called, for the moment, the Micro Bit.

"Just as we did with the BBC Micro in the 1980s, we want to inspire the digital visionaries of the future," said BBC Director-General Tony Hall.

There are a number of strings to the Make it Digital bow. The BBC is partnering with around 50 major organizations, including ARM, the British Computing Society, Freescale, Google, Microsoft and Samsung, to bring about the next digital revolution. It's brought together the expertise of some of those organizations to help create a small programmable hardware device currently named the Micro Bit, developed to help youngsters learn coding and programming basics.

Details of the device are sketchy at the moment, but the BBC has revealed that the Pi-like standalone, entry-level computer board will be small and wearable, will have a simple LED matrix display and be capable of connecting with other devices, including Arduino, Galileo, Kano and Raspberry Pi (as well as other Micro Bits). When it's launched in September, the mini-computer will be compatible with the Touch Develop, Python and C++ coding languages.

The Corporation is aiming to ensure that every child in year 7 classrooms (11 year-olds) across the UK gets one of these mini development boards for free, to help address what's reported to be a serious shortage of digital professionals in the coming years.

The BBC and partners are also looking to offer at least 5,000 unemployed youngsters the chance to become the creative coders, programmers and digital developers of the future as part of a special nine week Make it Digital Traineeship course, which will be run from the Corporation's Birmingham office but made available countrywide.

The Make it Digital initiative will be supported by a season of dedicated coding-based TV and radio programming and online content that begins today. Contributions are expected from such favorites as Doctor Who, Radio One, The One Show and EastEnders, and new shows lined up include a documentary on Bletchley Park (which is now home to a BBC Micro in its National Museum of Computing), a drama based on the popular video game series Grand Theft Auto and a talent show called Girls Can Code. The programming and activities are expected to build to a "big audience moment" in September.

Source: BBC

7 comments
sk8dad
Brilliant! As an American, it's so discouraging that other civilized countries are giving their children education and training while we give ours sugar and guns.
JeJe
Err.... right... are they going to give away a million monitors, keyboards, and mice too?
christopher
Horrible idea! You've not got 50 huge companies using British children and jeopardizing the kids futures as experimental participants in their global IoT empowerment struggle.
You're going to be teaching all these kids how to use a bit of gear that is not compatible with anything else IoT. They're going to have custom (probably insecure - none of these things have quality drivers) toolchains that don't build for Arduino or Pi, and learning code that won't run on them.
This is a wholesale marketing scam - all about biasing kids in favor of the program "sponsors", and caring nothing for the intellectual (non-standard and opportunity-crippling bias) and PC-security damage that results. I can just imagine the boardroom meeting: "What's the base cost per item? $2. Wow - so for only $2M, we can turn every UK kind into an advocate for our non-standard tech? Where do I sign!"
Here's a better idea: Same program - but let the kids pick the hardware. NOW - you'd be turning out professionals with useable IoT knowledge and experience and the ability to compete on a level playing field on state-of-the-art hardware with everyone else in this space.
IoT will be 10x bigger than the internet. Don't cripple kids future by pointing them down dead ends.
Ritchard Mckie
SO THIS IS WHAT WE ARE PAYING ARE OVER PRICED T.V. LICENCE FOR.
olavn
A stupid idea. Perhaps a few percent of these kids would really do programming. And they would need a monitor, keyboard, power supply and some sort of data storage. In other words: a computer system. They just need some sort of (portable) development software - like the Basic or Logo of the eighties. But a reality-oriented plan doesn't give much PR?
JPAR
First comment - great All the others - it won't affect you so stop whining.
Its a fabulous idea. It doesn't need to do anything more than initiate a sense of exploration, interest and understanding about what lies behind the everyday items that they take for granted. I say this as a child of the 80s who spent many hours learning to code on my BBC micro (purchased in 1982) and developed a great broader understanding and interest of computing in general. Even as an Accountant, this learning still helps me every day in my job.
Good luck to the BBC. (now please put Top Gear back on TV!)
Synchro
Wow, such crass negativity in here! This system looks incredibly good compared with the alternative om this scale, which is, realistically, nothing. If it was sponsored by only one backer, especially something with an less than stellar reputation such as Google or Microsoft, I would have more concerns, but that's not the case here. I do wonder why they decided on this kind of design though. There's no need for screen and keyboards on wearables, but something like a cut-down Pi or the Odroid-W would seem to do the job without the design effort - but it probably makes little difference for learning about IoT or general purpose computing since it's all the same from a coding point of view, and this looks to be a perfectly reasonable platform for that, especially given the declared compatibility with Pi and Arduino.