BBC micro:bit release date pushed back to Christmas 2015


The release of the BBC's micro:bit computer has been hit with a delay, due to issues with its power supply.

Although the issue only reportedly affected "a small number of devices", the launch has been pushed back to ensure that any underlying issues can be resolved. "As a result of our rigorous testing process, we've decided to make some minor revisions to the device," a BBC spokesperson stated, adding that "getting it right for children and teachers before we manufacture one million units is our priority". The microcomputers were initially scheduled to be rolled out in October, to let new year seven pupils acclimatise to secondary school, however, the devices will now be sent out around the 2015 Christmas holidays, according to a BBC spokesman, who said that "we're expecting to start sending them out to teachers before Christmas and to children early in the New Year".

The single-board computer, measures at 4cm x 5cm, and is part of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative. The initiative, designed to encourage kids into coding, will provide up to one million devices - free of charge - to 11 and 12 year olds in Year Seven.

Rather than being a direct competitor, the micro:bit is instead being marketed as a companion device to existing machines like Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Galileo. Devices such as the Raspberry Pi can function as fully-fledged desktop computers, whereas the Micro is geared more directly to ‘maker’ projects. It lacks the full-size USB ports or display outputs seen on competitors, but it does have an array of 25 red LED lights, two programmable buttons, onboard accelerometer and magnetometers, and Bluetooth for connecting to PCs and mobile devices. It also has five Input/Output rings, which can transmit data and commands to other devices or sensors.

All of the micro:bit's elements can be programmed via the micro:bit website and the code can then be saved and tested within the web app before being transferred over to the device.

The micro:bit, which will be available in a range of colours, also functions as a standalone device for kids looking to explore wearables and the IoT, and will feature a removable battery pack, which accepts AA cells. A spokesperson for the BBC said "The initial prototype utilised a smaller battery, however in reviewing the design and examining the health and safety implications of using small batteries for a young audience, where siblings may be able to access the device, the partnership took the decision to re-engineer this element."

The micro:bit was originally planned to be available for purchase by the general public, both in the UK and overseas, before the end of the year, but with the delays caused by the power supply, this date is likely to slip into early 2016.

Sinead Rocks, head of BBC learning, has high hopes for the potential of the micro:bit - "the micro:bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis, this could be for the internet-of-things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry."

In addition to being funded by the BBC, the micro:bit has external funding and assistance from almost 30 partner organisation. One of the biggest contributors is chip manufacturer ARM, who provided the mbed hardware and software dev kits. ARM already has strong ties to the BBC, as the partnership between Acorn computers and the broadcasting organisation that created the initial BBC Micro also led to the creation of ARM.

CEO Simon Segars comments on the programme’s potential: "Technology is now as much a part of childhood as riding a bicycle or kicking a football but going from user to innovator is something we still need to encourage. The BBC and Acorn Computers, where ARM technology was first created, came together 35 years ago to develop the BBC Micro and that inspired the engineers now at the forefront of shaping our increasingly connected world. The new BBC micro:bit has even greater potential because it can inspire boys and girls toward a career in technology at a time of unprecedented demand for science and engineering skills across all areas of the global economy."

Technology