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

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 …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No wonder they got rid of Clarkson, to be able to afford to give away the free hardware

    1. Arnold Lieberman
      Coat

      No, silly!

      Clarkson brings in stacks of money to the BBC, so getting rid of him and making these will be two costs. Same reason for keeping Her Majesty in the public purse...

      1. dogged

        Re: No, silly!

        Three costs. They also now have to compensate all those broadcasters who already bought the full series of Top Gear from BBC Worldwide.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: No, silly!

          BBC getting into computers

          BBC having trouble with presenters either "bumping into choir boys" or going Duke Of Edinburgh on foreigners

          Solution - robot Clarkson.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No, silly!

          Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No, silly!

        Perhaps it would be better if Clarkson were to run the BBC.

        Anyone bet against them having him back?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He's not gone until he runs over a producer. Twice.

      1. Blane Bramble

        MOOOAAAARRR POWWWWAHHHH!!!

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          > MOOOAAAARRR POWWWWAHHHH!!!

          No. Someone has thought of the children. I have heard that they are hoping to sign up Jimmy Harris to run it all for them. Less power to the tomorrow people.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, no, give the show to Captain Slow!

    4. Jim 59

      "Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, gushed: "This is exactly what the BBC is all about..."

      Really ? I thought it was about performing activities pursuant to its charter. What is it doing buying electronics for children, however laudable ?

      "...namely bringing the industry together on an unprecedented scale and making a difference to millions..."

      What on Earth has the BBC got to do with "bringing industry together" ? And does Hall really believe this to be the electronics industry's biggest ever collaboration ?

      "...Just as we did with the BBC Micro in the 1980s"

      A second ago he said it was unprecedented.

      Unfortunately, neither the BBC nor its reputation are anything like they were in 1982. Today nobody is certain what the BBC is, but what it seems to be is just a great wheeze if you can get on the payroll. Isn't this venture really just about promoting the BBC, and keeping its money-go-round spinning as long as possible ?

      Ahh too cynical. Looks like a great device anyway.

  2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    Raspberry Pi!

    Top gear!

  3. Andy 73

    So... where's the spec?

    As above.

    The only reason I can conceive for not using a general purpose device like the Pi is if you can make it significantly cheaper. Given the low cost of the Pi, I'd be interested to see the specs of the MicroBit.

    1. Simon Ward

      Re: So... where's the spec?

      If the pics on the Beeb's news website are any indication (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31834927) it *looks* like a gutted Arduino with added blinkenlights. The pics aren't clear, but that's definitely an Atmel chip on there.

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: So... where's the spec?

      It'll have poor battery life and only the LEDs on the left side of the board will light up. They'll be red.

      1. Fink-Nottle
        Joke

        Re: So... where's the spec?

        Rumoured to include a Clarkson inclinometer chip.

  4. Steve Todd

    There's a little more info

    over here http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/makeitdigital/micro-bit

    Looking at the picture and backers list I'd guess it was an entry level ARM M0 connected to an nRF24L01+ radio chip and a simple LED matrix. Less than £5 to build in that volume would be my guess

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    So the BBC not only wants to impose a TV tax on everyone but now shout that they are really worth your time and money because they are doing something like they did 30yrs ago... hmm. Nothing more recent to be proud of? Certainly plenty to be shamed for.

    1. noybatall

      Re: Ha

      I have no problem with paying the BBC license fee at all. None whatsoever.

      It is great value.

      is it a perfect arrangement? No. But pressure from politicians whose pockets are being lined by Newscorp to stamp down on the BBC does not help provide a better outcome for the public.

      iPlayer was a world leader in streaming for the masses - the BBC website still provides a wealth of excellent educational content despite being downsized by the shower of shit that is in government now. There is plenty to be proud of there and plenty for your short-sighted mind to be shamed for.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @ noybatall

        "I have no problem with paying the BBC license fee at all. None whatsoever"

        Why does the brain dead approach have to be trotted out every time. Just because in your little world you are fine with it doesnt mean that the many people with no use for it nor its services is happy paying for something we dont have a use for. If it is so good I have a novel concept for you- you pay for it and dont expect the rest of us to! But then your great value BBC wouldnt survive the week.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ha

          Every time I watch ITV, I praise the license fee and go back to good old Auntie. As a colleague said, it's worth it just for Radio 4.....No, I don't vote UKIP.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ha

            When I was young, the individual companies that made up ITV could give the BBC a run for their money and tv programming was not limited to London. Eg World In Action, Alan Whicker's interviews (Yorkshire TV) or the Survival wildlife programmes (Anglia, though on the other side of the equation, Norwich was also home to Sale of the Century).

            I find I watch very little ITV these days, and I fear what could happen to the BBC.

            1. jason 7

              Re: Ha

              Anglia TV (or what's left of it) is just up the road from me. It's been such a shame to see it all fall apart over the past 20 years.

              Even their fabulous main office with the silver knight statue has been sold off.

              I think it's just a small regional news office now.

          2. Oldfogey

            Re: Ha

            Even better value is that you don't need to pay a license fee to listen to Radio 4!

          3. Jim 59

            Re: Ha

            It is worth it for THIS WEEK.

            and top gear

        2. hplasm Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Re: Ha

          "Why does the brain dead approach have to be trotted out every time. "

          I don't know. Why do you do it?

        3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ha

          >you pay for it and dont expect the rest of us to!

          Anyone organising a "Telethon for Trident" ?

          1. codejunky Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Ha

            @ Yet Another Anonymous coward

            "Anyone organising a "Telethon for Trident" ?"

            I dont recall the BBC being part of the military force to defend this country. I didnt realise the BBC had the power of stopping the UK falling as the Crimea did. I suppose you could threaten to make our enemies watch it but apparently some people will enjoy that. As long as others are paying for it

            1. Steve Todd

              Re: Ha @codejunky

              Listen out for that whooshing noise. It's the sound of the point going over your head. Many people in the country don't like Trident, but the government decided to fund it in the public good so their taxes go towards paying for it.

              Likewise the BBC is held to be a public good (entertainment is just one of the three legs it is built on). Because of that the public has to pay for it, like it or not. Democracy is like that. Don't like it? Move county.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: Ha @codejunky

                @ Steve Todd

                "It's the sound of the point going over your head. Many people in the country don't like Trident, but the government decided to fund it in the public good so their taxes go towards paying for it."

                The funny thing is you honestly think the point went over my head. You may not like Trident, nuclear power, police, NHS or many other public services which are actually public services and serve an actual purpose. But in what world would you try to claim the BBC is? How about a tax on everyone to support a single religion? Is that good value? The believers will think so and they will think its for the public good and moral fibre and other justifications to take money to prop up something which by itself cannot stand. It just isnt that good a value for money or they wouldnt need to steal. Other channels dont and they exist yet to watch them I must prop up a biased and proud of it propaganda machine (see where the religion comparison comes in?).

                What is democratic about an enforced propaganda machine? Where is the democracy of propaganda? Btw do try not to be skewered by the point if you finally get it.

                1. Steve Todd
                  Stop

                  Re: Ha @codejunky

                  You missed the bits about "Inform and Educate". Being at arms length from the government its a damned site better than any state funded news organisation, and normally better than ITV news. It's also hard to argue against its role in education, which is what this whole thread is about.

                  1. codejunky Silver badge

                    Re: Ha @codejunky

                    @ Steve Todd

                    "You missed the bits about "Inform and Educate". Being at arms length from the government its a damned site better than any state funded news organisation"

                    Inform and educate is not compatible with propaganda. The BBC is openly biased and are pretty open about it. I agree a state funded news org would be bad, however when the BBC decides to take a position on things especially in support of a particular party is the same problem. An actually impartial and actually arms length organisation sounds good to me even if I dont like the content. The problem is it is a biased org and we are still forced to pay for it, via the TV tax which they are considering a universal tax. Sounds very much like the state funded monster you talk of! So no I wont be happy being forced to pay for that if I want to watch content I do like. I dont mind drivel on a TV channel as long as I am not forced to pay for it. If the BBC was impartial and educational and informative then I would have no problem. But that is not what we have.

                    And I consider this project a big waste of taxpayer money. There already is an educational project to get kids into IT, but the BBC are backing something lesser? Why? What actual purpose above and beyond does this gizmo provide while needing to be plugged into an actual PC?

                    If this is about education then why is it yet another project? Why does it need to be plugged into a computer to start coding for it? Why is it an additional cost when an entry level low spec computer is already provided and aimed at kids for educational purposes? And how available will it be as 1 million kids are given one all from a single year? What it is is an additional cost to provide seemingly nothing while begging for more money from the population to prop up the BBC that wouldnt be able to stand on its own 2 feet.

                    1. Steve Todd
                      FAIL

                      Re: Ha @codejunky

                      The BBC isn't allowed to be biased against a particular party. That doesn't mean that individual programs cant be biased, but as a whole their output must be unbiased. They tend to show bias and take a stance on particular issues (global warming for example), but then so does any news agency you care to mention.

                      As to existing educational projects, think of this as an intro to those who will move on to the Pi, Arduino, mbed etc. The device is small, simple and cheap. It's there to introduce the fundamentals of computer hardware and programming. Its for kids who have just started secondary school, and you don't want to throw them in at the level of how to program a GUI at that age, you want to get them hooked on the ideas and wanting to take things further.

                      Costs? The BBC isn't paying for the hardware. The partner companies are. All the BBC are doing is creating some educational programs to teach kids how to use them. That's definitely in their remit.

                      1. codejunky Silver badge

                        Re: Ha @codejunky

                        @ Steve Todd

                        "The BBC isn't allowed to be biased against a particular party. That doesn't mean that individual programs cant be biased, but as a whole their output must be unbiased."

                        You might have missed a bit. Scientifically they are massively biased and unfortunately that also branches out into politically too. Factually they are also biased in their news reporting and their programming. I suggest you have a nosy at recent BBC topics if you want examples, there are a few. You may wash it off that other news agencies do the same but simply- their entire purpose is to be unbiased. It is their reason to exist and have a license fee! If they want bias thats fine, but they can try and stand on their own without fleecing those who are not interested.

                        "As to existing educational projects, think of this as an intro to those who will move on to the Pi, Arduino, mbed etc"

                        Maybe but not totally. This project sounds like it requires a computer to program it. Except a PI is a computer with simplified logic and software development tools already aimed at the intro audience. So where a PI is a cheap PC for those who cannot afford, this is a gadget with 1million given away but no visible use or purpose. While the PI already has a huge support base and availability (and doesnt require a PC).

                        "Costs? The BBC isn't paying for the hardware. The partner companies are. All the BBC are doing is creating some educational programs to teach kids how to use them. That's definitely in their remit."

                        If education is their remit then they surely aim for the greatest coverage. So that includes the poor with restricted to no PC available yet kids need one + this gadget to get this 'entry level' toy to work. Compared to the PI which is entry level and easy to provision for. The BBC seem to be pushing a useless gimmick which comes at cost to the license payers that is aimed at a very small audience and is unheard of until now. Vs a working project that already exists, has availability and if you have a spare PC instead of a PI you dont need a PI. This gadget is an extra to buy on top of a PC. Why?

                        1. Steve Todd
                          FAIL

                          Re: Ha @codejunky

                          Scientific bias isn't banned by their charter. Political bias is. I can't say that I like their stance on a number of scientific issues, but that doesn't make them wrong or bad. My taxes pay for scientific research that is biased against my views too, that doesn't mean that I should be able to opt out of paying for them.

                          These machines will be used at school. No matter how poor a child is their school will have rooms full of PCs that they can use these on. Chances are their local library will also have machines able to program them. This is not an equality issue.

                          The Pi on the other hand requires the machine, an SD card, a PSU, a HDMI cable, a HDMI capable TV or monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. Minimum that's going to add up to 10x the cost of this device and there are far fewer kids who could use it at home.

                2. Triggerfish

                  Re: Ha @codejunky

                  You may not like Trident, nuclear power, police, NHS or many other public services which are actually public services and serve an actual purpose.

                  Some will argue Trident is not necessary. What is democratic about that then that everyone has to pay?

                  1. codejunky Silver badge

                    Re: Ha @codejunky

                    @ Triggerfish

                    "Some will argue Trident is not necessary. What is democratic about that then that everyone has to pay?"

                    Some argue an army is unnecessary and we should all get high and be nice. Some argue energy generation is unnecessary and we should live in mud huts. And then people like you think your choice of entertainment is necessary. This is why democracy is to ignore nutters. What is more democratic than people choosing en-mass what entertainment channels they want? Maybe by paying for the content they watch? But you probably think thats crazy!

            2. strum Silver badge

              Re: Ha

              >I dont recall the BBC being part of the military force to defend this country.

              No. - It's far more valuable than that. It makes it a country worth defending.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: Ha

                @ strum

                "No. - It's far more valuable than that. It makes it a country worth defending."

                Your hair grow back. The sun to shine brighter. Your penis grow longer. And the bullshit smell sweeter.

            3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

              Re: Ha

              I didnt realise the BBC had the power of stopping the UK falling as the Crimea did.

              Err... hold on. The UK won the Crimean War, remember? Ok, there were some french and turkish allies, but still.

        4. Triggerfish

          Re: Ha

          @Codejunky

          Do you watch no TV or listen to no Radio in the UK then? the Beeb being the way it is, is the reason other channels in the UK at least try and give us a decent service rather than turning into American style channels.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Ha

            @ Triggerfish

            "Do you watch no TV or listen to no Radio in the UK then? the Beeb being the way it is, is the reason other channels in the UK at least try and give us a decent service rather than turning into American style channels."

            Try not to cry too hard- I watched sky. I did try to watch some shows on the BBC but couldnt get into them. However I was forced to pay a license for it while actually watching the successful and therefore self sustaining American shows. And no I dont bother with radio at all.

            I have no problem with people enjoying the entertainment they choose. I get irritated that I am taxed to pay for content that people like you apparently find good value but wont pay for yourself.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ha

        "I have no problem with paying the BBC license fee at all. None whatsoever."

        I actually dont mind all that much, cos I use the BBC. If I didn't, but still watched some of the other shite on TV, why should I have to pay for the BBC? It's just 4 (soon 3) of many channels available. If I had a Sky subscription, but didn't watch the movie channels, I'd not pay for them, and therefore would not be able to recieve them. So, if people dont watch the BBC why should they pay for it?

        People who enjoy the bbc shouldn't be arrogant enough to expect people who dont watch it to share the cost. If the BBC is great value (as you say), people will choose to pay for it, and there is no problem.

        1. Derek Law

          Re: Ha

          Don't concentrate your narrow-mindedness on the BBC.

          Why should all the well people pay for the NHS? Or the childless pay for education?

          A: society.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Ha

            @ Derek Law

            "Don't concentrate your narrow-mindedness on the BBC.

            Why should all the well people pay for the NHS? Or the childless pay for education?

            A: society."

            The NHS which provides health for anyone regardless of their ability to pay? Education which provides education regardless of ability to pay? There is a strong argument relating these to society (even if the quality is often questioned). So lets see where the BBC fits in.... erm. Someone else compared it to the military. We have pretty much got to the stage where you must be deluded to think the BBC isnt biased and pushing misinformation. So what does society get from this? I know they are currently talking about a universal tax but so far it has been a TV tax so the society thing doesnt measure up.

            It does make me wonder what they tell you when your growing up or if they are using subliminal messaging to the watchers of those channels? More likely it is your greed of want but at others expense under the 'socially acceptable' shroud of society. Does that make it feel more acceptable to you? Maybe you should be forced to pay for other channels you dont want for the benefit of others. You know.... for society

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ha

        You may be fine with it - many are not. The issue is the others have no choice. Clearly there are 'necessary' public services that you do need to share the cost with everyone (defence etc.) but not sure the BBC falls into this 'necessary' category.

        As for value for money - I'm not so sure - £12 per house and literally almost everyone has to pay - even if you never watch BBC channels. So perhaps it's great value for some and lousy value for others.

      4. Jim 59

        Re: Ha

        "I have no problem with paying the BBC license fee at all. None whatsoever. It is great value."

        I agree, but not paying the fee it is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE. So whether we like it or not is of marginal relevance. When you add up the cost of the 181,000 BBC prosecutions a year, is it still good value ? Judges do not come cheap.

        "...politicians whose pockets are being lined by Newscorp to stamp down on the BBC does not help provide a better outcome for the public..."

        Again I agree. However, buying products from Newscorp is a choice. You don't get arrested for declining the offer. What we need is a balance. I don't think free BBC gifts for children is part of the balance, and could even be construed as the same sort of bribary you rightly accuse politicians of.

        iPlayer was a world leader in streaming for the masses - the BBC website still provides a wealth of excellent educational content..."

        A lot of truth there. The less charitable might respond that any organisation, if given billions of pounds for free, might have similar success. Several TV companies have their own iPlayers, which they built from their own sweat in the free market. But the iPlayer is well done, no doubt about it. Congrats to the BBC engineers.

        ...despite being downsized by the shower of shit that is in government now. There is plenty to be proud of there and plenty for your short-sighted mind to be shamed for.

        There is no shame in reasonably critisizing the state or its appointed broadcaster. How does persuing 181,000 of Britains poorest families fit in with the socialist utopia ? Any shame about that ?

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: Ha

          181,000 prosecutions a year, mostly of people who can't afford to pay the fee. Times that by the new £600+ "court fee" being brought in, and it is a license to print money. Money that those unable to pay also won't be able to, er, pay.

          I look forward to the streets being near empty, & the UK finally beating the USA at the top of the chart of "people in prison per 100k population"

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      License fee blah blah.

      BBC are making some programmes for this device and lending their name.

      Manufacture is funded by the 9 formal partners.

      ARM

      Barclays

      element14

      Freescale

      Microsoft

      Nordic Semiconductor

      Samsung

      ScienceScope

      Technology Will Save Us

      Turns out that particular horse isn't actually that high.

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    Everything up to the giving away of the "Microbit" is brilliant. The idea of giving away that bit of hardware out for free is bloody stupid.

    They are giving away a stripped down "Raspberry Pi-like" device. Stripped down, Raspberry Pi-like, why??? The Raspberry Pi is well documented, well supported, already in schools, and cheap. It's also not stripped down, the possibilities are practically endless.

    The BBC should have bought a stockpile of Pi's and gave them out, and tailored their documentation for the device. That's all they needed to do. But no, someone at the BBC decided "We're not spending enough money on this, lets release our own hardware too!". But you know why would it be any different? They haven't had to work for their money, they just use the threat of court to get money from people who want to watch a bit of TV in the evenings.

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