BBC Micro:Bit – A Competitor for Raspberry Pi?

The BBC – yes, the UK’s national television company – has recently unveiled its own pocket-sized, codeable computer, the Micro:Bit. It has a ton of features to go around – motion detection, Bluetooth, a built-in compass, and many more. It’s tiny, easy to handle, and perfect for anyone who wants to learn about computers. But is is up to the competition – the low-cost, high power Raspberry Pi?

The Micro:Bit vs. the Raspberry Pi

Comparing the two devices would be like comparing a beginner’s first try on building a blog to one built by a professional designer, like this website here. The Raspberry Pi and the Micro:Bit are two completely different devices. The Micro:Bit is nothing like the latest Pi 3 – it’s much simpler, more like a gateway to the likes of Raspberry Pi. It is intended to introduce children to the world of computers, rather than a computer on its own.

What is the Micro:Bit after all?

The Micro:Bit is nothing but a circuit board with most of its functions built in – it has a programmable 25-LED display, two control buttons, and some basic operations. Its goal is to interact with other devices rather than working as a standalone computer, so a comparison between the two doesn’t stand.

The hardware specifications of the Micro:Bit tell us all about its capabilities. It has a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU, the smallest one available at the manufacturer. It only has 16 kilobytes of memory, so there is no way a proper operating system – let alone software for a HTPC – could run on it.

Development for the Micro:Bit is simple, easy to master. It only has 56 instructions, and a C-friendly architecture, making development of its applications quick and easy. It will encourage its users to develop devices using it, and learn more about technology compared to the Pi. While the Pi is a fully fledged computer, equipped with USB ports and HDMI video output, the Micro:Bit only has five I/O rings – they can be used to hook up external devices – like sensors and robots – using crocodile clips. Its built-in accelerometer makes it perfect for building direction-based toys and games, while its Bluetooth connectivity enables it to hook up with mobile phones wirelessly. I can imagine a Micro:Bit-based robot as a science project, remotely controlled using an Android app… that would make a great addition to any science fair, I guess.

The Micro:Bit doesn’t come with a proper operating system, but rather with a web-based interface. It is simple, accessible and perfect for introducing children to the building blocks of computer systems. And that’s its destination: to help children discover the wonders of technology. And it will be given away to all year 7 children (that’s the final year of primary school in the UK).

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