If you are thinking about learning how to program or encouraging someone to get into programming, then the BBC micro:bit would be a good starting point. It is a palm-sized board powered by AAA batteries meant to be used as a computer.
BBC believes that people should become creators rather than just users of technology. With the micro:bit, they want to bridge the gap between software and hardware by teaching people, especially children, how the two work together.
How does it work?
A computer takes the information through an input device and displays it on an output device. For example, when we click a picture on our smartphones, the touch screen acts as both an input and an output device. Connecting the two is a processor that interprets the information received from the input component and makes things happen on an output device, such as playing a song on your headphones.
For a processor to interpret the information, mammoth codes are written from understanding when, say, a letter “P” is typed on a keyboard to make a robotic arm throw a tennis ball. The BBC micro:bit allows people to code on four different programming platforms on their smartphones, laptops, tablets, or computer, with the help of an app called Microsoft MakeCode.
The new micro:bits microphone has a dedicated ‘operating’ indicator light which makes it clear when the microphone is on and sensing sound. #microbit https://t.co/6YlFvI4y2P pic.twitter.com/rCRZLxoeuK
— Micro:bit Educational Foundation (@microbit_edu) October 21, 2020
One can create algorithms and loop structures to create animations such as a beating heart on the app. Once the program is written, it will be transferred to micro:bit, acting as a standalone device to display flash messages, record movements, play games and tunes, and other tasks.
The BBC micro:bit model has been revamped since its debut in 2016, including a better microprocessor with more memory, an in-built microphone and speaker, and a touch screen. Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities are also in place to power it. The microphone will enable the device to respond to sound, such as creating a disco light that moves to the music.
The micro:bit works on the Arm Mbed operating system, an open-source embedded OS designed specifically for devices connected via the internet. Various projects are available on the BBC micro:bit’s website, with free access to their programming codes.
Using scrap cardboard, tin foil, and four crocodile clip leads, you can play a game called Reaction Time. This game’s code uses boolean logic to prevent people from cheating, as its variables are only true and false. An infinite loop will keep the game running for as long as you want to play. That’s just one of the many programs that BBC micro:bit has available for you.
The software, schematic and BOM continues to be open source, as it was for the original micro:bit and will be released as the new device becomes available
— Micro:bit Educational Foundation (@microbit_edu) October 16, 2020
The original BBC micro:bit was launched in 2016 and distributed for free to teachers and schoolchildren in the UK. On October 13, 2020, a new version was announced with new features. The device will be made available next month, with prices starting at £11.50. The 2016 model is still available at $19.30.
YouTube: Meet the latest BBC micro:bit