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BBC: We'll give FREE subpar-Raspberry-Pis to a million Brit schoolkids

Shades of the 1980s Micro, says Beeb director general

By Kat Hall, 12 Mar 2015

The BBC is to dish out tiny primitive computers to all 11-year-olds in the UK this autumn.

Under its "Make it Digital" campaign, designed to get kids into writing software and getting hands on with electronics, the broadcaster will hand out one million of the "Micro Bit" gadgets. The name is a homage to the BBC Micro computer designed and built by Acorn in the 1980s to kickstart a generation of bedroom programmers.

The child-palm-sized Micro Bit hardware, aimed at Year 7 school children, is intended to act as a springboard for more advanced products such as the Arduino, Galileo, Kano and Raspberry Pi, BBC staff said.

The device is being developed in partnership with 25 organisations – from ARM and Samsung to Microsoft and Barclays.

No technical specifications have been published. It is described as a small wearable device with a 5 x 5 LED array, and can be plugged into a PC via USB to program.

If you squint hard enough at the prototype circuit board, pictured above, it appears to be powered by an Atmel microcontroller – so it's unlikely to be a full-blown single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi.

"[The] Micro Bit aims to help transform a new generation from passive consumers of technology to creators and innovators in the digital world," the state broadcaster said in a statement.

"The project is still in development and the final name, appearance and specification is likely to change."

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, gushed: "This is exactly what the BBC is all about, namely bringing the industry together on an unprecedented scale and making a difference to millions. Just as we did with the BBC Micro in the 1980s, we want to inspire the digital visionaries of the future."

The Make it Digital initiative will also include the creation of 5,000 digital trainees across 50 organisations, and the launch a season of dedicated BBC programmes and online activity.

The gizmo is a work-in-progress, and will be available at the start of the next school year this September, we're told. ®

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