IAN LANG ELECTRONICS

Right then. Here at Lang Towers we looked at Raspberry Pi, decided we didn't much like it and completely ignored it. But now the BBC have decided to make, promote and dole out a microcontroller which they've called the BBC Microbit and they are giving it away to kids all over the country. Millions of them. Soon it will be commercial and some kind people  have slung one this way for a bit for me to have a bash at and see what I think. So, thanks to them, and here beginneth said bash.

 

Firstly, what is it?

bbcmicrobit Go Back bbcmicrobitfront

On the left there you see a very high def photo (sorry about that if it's slow to load) of one of them. The blue zig-zags in the photo   are actually red on the one I've got but that's a cosmetic thing and you could be looking at one that's actually green or yellow. It doesn't matter, they're just the same thing in a different colour. The photo is life size; this thing measures just 40 by 50mm and as 50mm is a whisker off two inches you can gather it's pretty mini.

Some of the BBC's own writers call it  "a pocket-sized computer" which brings me on to my first pernickity gripe of this article in that is it really?  I prefer to think of it as a microcontroller as it's designed for embedded, standalone applications rather than as a platform with a designated OS upon which you can run other software. But that's just me.

 

Chance whatever definition you use, the device has two in-built user inputs and one in-built output, with the term in-built here meaning you don't have to attach anything to it to make it do something.You do however have to provide it with some code.

 

The BBC have made it fairly  easy and straightforward to do so in that the coding is done in a web browser. The finished hex sketch is then downloaded to your PC and the Microbit plugged in to a USB port. You open the Microbit as though it's a drive and flip the downloaded file in,whereupon it transfers and begins to run. There are a number of programming methods that you can find on the official website which is

https://www.microbit.co.uk/  (click the link button here)

 

Considering carefully here at Lang Towers (i.e. we had  a cup of tea) we thought the best one to begin with was Microsoft Block Editor as it's just like Scratch and might seem familiar. Better yet, you can change to a typing mode when you get more confident. So that's what all the initial tutorials will be done with. On the left you can see the list; starting at the top with simple and getting harder as they go down.

 

www.microbit.co.uk/create-code

Ian Lang, TMIET,      April 2016

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