As you can see I am not a complete die-hard ‘Pi fan-boi’ (others might disagree) , there are some great SBC’s and microprocessors alongside the Raspberry Pi. There has been a few attempts at producing so called ‘Raspberry Pi Killers’ but it is fair to say that none have succeeded in toppling the Mighty Pi as none have the ‘Pi Community’ mojo . Personally I think we need a diversity in devices and boards – it creates for a healthy advance and development of technology. So the micro:bit or BBC MicroBit was already in planning in 2012 around the time of the launch of the Raspberry Pi but not as a direct competitor – rather a complimentary device. The micro:bit is certainly a ‘nod’ back to the BBC micro launched in the 80’s and anyone in secondary education at that time will have memories of the Beeb and BASIC as a programming language . Fast forward and the micro:bit was eventually launched in March 2016 with the idea of the first 1 Million devices being given free to all Y7 pupils in the UK. With a very easy and accessible website (microbit) + simple USB micro connector it was the ideal device to introduce pupils to coding (full Wiki links at bottom of page).
Lets have a quick look at the board(40mmx50mm) – as you can see it has 5×5 LED matrix (red) at the front and 2 buttons labelled A and B . At the foot of the board we see 23 pins or edge connectors , the 5 most common ones clearly labelled and accessible with Crocodile Clips or similar.
The back of the board contains the processor, compass, accelerometer , USB micro port, JST battery connector,BLE antenna and a RESET button – again all clearly labelled. The processor is a 48 MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ core microcontroller with 256 KB flash memory so as you can gather this is in no way meant to compete with a microcomputer. The micro:bit is also cleverly using 9 of the 5×5 LED array as a light sensor by inverting the voltage; Please see the full explanation here (ext link).
Access to the main pins o, 1, 2, 3V & GND is easy with clips or plugs although crocodile clips have a tendency to slide around a bit to much for my liking. Edge connector docks are available and give access to the boards full capability in terms of input and output control. And this is where this board really shines as you can control some fairly complex robotics with motors / actuators and sensors – have a look at the 4Tronix line chasing (ext link) bit:bot here;
more sections to follow soon folks – stay tuned