What is the BBC Micro:Bit?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Back when I was a lad my school had a BBC micro (as did my grandad – loved playing chucky egg!) this was the BBCs first attempt at educating the British youth about computers known as the BBC Computer Literacy Program. It was huge success and I’m sure it directly relates to the huge success of the UK in various programming sectors. That was 1981 - fast forward to 2016 and the BBC has launched the BBC micro:bit, unlike the BBC Micro the micro:bit is an embedded platform with various integrated sensors and connectivity, more an Arduino than a Raspberry Pi.

What is the BBC Micro Bit

MicroBit Specification

  • 16MHz 32-bit ARM Cortext M0 CPU
  • 16K Ram
  • Bluetooth LE (Low energy)
  • Integrated Bluetooth antenna
  • Micro USB
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • 2 Buttons
  • 5x5 LED grid display
  • Digital and analogue Input / Output

Raspberry pi vs Micro Bit

The BBC micro:bit is a different beast to the Raspberry Pi, where the Raspberry Pi is a superb fully functioning LINUX computer that you can plug a keyboard,  mouse and monitor into the micro:bit is more like a standalone sensor board that you can program to do very specific tasks.
For example with the micro bit you can program it to take readings from its accelerometer to determine when you’ve taken a step and then display the number of steps on its LED grid display. With the raspberry Pi you could take readings from several sensors and display them live on a webpage while running a minecraft server. In short the micro:bit can do simple things fast and efficiently, the Pi can do lots of complex things well. Really it’s like comparing a hammer to a screw driver – different tools for different jobs.

Micro Bit Language

There are 4 ways to program the BBC micro:bit and all of them are accessed via your internet browser:

Code kingdoms. JavaScript

This is a visual drag and drop interface for JavaScript, you can also change to a text based editor enabling a smooth transition from a drag and drop interface to a more traditional text base interface.

Microsoft Block editor

Micro Bit Language

This is Microsoft’s take on a block style interface for programming, if you’ve used scratch then you’ll already have a good understanding of how to use this, it’s the perfect way for beginners to get started.

Microsoft touch develop

Micro Bit Language

This version of Microsoft’s interface has been specifically designed to work with mobile and tablets, it will also run using a keyboard and mouse and uses blocks of text code, it works kind of like predictive texting but for making code rather than talking to your mates.


Micro Bit Language

Micro Python gives you a standard programming interface where you have to type each line of code, no handy blocks and drag or indeed drop here but it gives you more control over the code.

Where to buy the Micro:Bit

Right here at Proto-pic! We offer the best price on many BBC micro:bit kits and accessories .


Other BBC Micro:Bit Resources

BBC Micro:bit home page
Programming environments


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