Chapter 3. BBC micro:bit

The BBC micro:bit is a simple yet powerful computing device for beginner programmers. It is small, cheap, and easy to use. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) created the device to promote digital creativity. In other words, the BBC wants to foster the skills and confidence needed for anyone to make cool stuff with computers!

This isn’t the first time the BBC has created a computing device for beginner programmers. In the 1980s, I first learned to program on an 8-bit BBC microcomputer (see Figure 3-1). Every school in the UK was given one and, luckily for me, my father was a head-teacher (school principal).

One weekend he came home with several large boxes containing a monitor, the computer, leads, and various manuals. His intention was to learn how to use the computer in school. However, it took only half an hour before my brother and I had managed to take over and get our young hands on the device (I was eight years old).

Compared to today’s computers it wasn’t particularly powerful, usable, or friendly: when you turned it on, it made a “bloop-bleep” sound and displayed a blinking cursor. To my eight-year-old self, it was daring me to type something.

I believe my first ever interaction with a computer was typing HELLO, hitting ENTER, and getting the result: Mistake.

I had absolutely no idea why the computer thought I’d made a mistake, but I remember feeling excited to have a computer react to something I had typed. It turns out that I had made ...

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