The BBC Micro 2 - Look what's coming back to the classroom
Last Friday I received a phone call informing me that I had to get myself to the Hack To The Future event being held at Our Ladies Catholic High School in Preston as a matter of urgency because the BBC are to be there and would be unwrapping, for the first time, the BBC Micro 2.
So, interest ignited, I quickly re-arranged my Saturday schedule and got myself onto the invite list, as this kind of opportunity couldn't be passed up. A quick mention must be made about Hack To The Future (H2DF). This event was organized by Alan O’Donohoe as an un-conference and in the brief time I had to chat with him he let me know that H2DF was inspired by the EduGeek conference which he attended last year. They had over 300 young people and adults through the doors and from what I saw the level of enthusiasm from all comers was very high indeed. You can read more about the ethos behind the event here: H2DF and I sincerely hope they hold another one that I can attend for the full day.
Once in, bumping immediately into Arran Wicher (AWicher on the forums) who was helping out, I then had a brief chat with Alan who kindly took me over to the BBC room where they were demonstrating the Micro 2, and truth be told I was a bit taken aback at what I saw. The BBC Micro 2 isn’t a hardware platform as I’d been mentally building it up to be at all, far from it. For those of you ‘of a certain age’ you may well remember the original BBC Micro, and its intended aim of teaching children in school to learn how to code. Well, it is this admirable aim that the Micro 2 intends to emulate; you see the BBC Micro 2 is a development environment. To get the lowdown on just what it is I was very graciously given time to speak to Parmy Brar, the lead developer of the Micro 2 Project, to get a bit more information on what it is, how it came about and anything else I could find that would be of interest to EduGeek members. The BBC Micro 2 is a prototype (pre-alpha still) cross platform development environment created for the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project. It aims to be an environment where students, both young and old, will be able to learn the concepts of coding via set tutorials and exercises in a variety of languages, as well as exporting or developing work as web apps into iOS and Android via an easy to use menu system which seemed to work very well when I saw it in operation. Parmy was quite enthused about several of the set projects that has students creating their own web servers and then creating web sites with active content to go on them. He has actually created a web server on the Micro 2 with just seven lines of code, and is trying to get this down to 6!
Currently the Micro 2 only has Java and HTML support in the version being shown at H2DF, but Parmy informed me that several other common programming languages will be added, including Python and ‘C’. The Micro 2 environment is cross platform and clients for Windows, Mac and Linux will be available, with the Mac and Widows clients being demonstrated at the event.
Considering the project is only 6 weeks old and was started without the prior knowledge of Michael Gove’s speech at BETT it seems the BBC has timed things to perfection given the creation of the new computer science curriculum, and there was some talk about the possibility of porting it to the Raspberry Pi when the device becomes available.
There is now a website (www.bbchelloworld.co.uk) that has just gone live this morning and will have more information on there about downloads and availability, neither of which questions I could get an answer for unfortunately. Anyway, this looks like it could be something many of us should be keeping an eye on in the near future, as it may well provide a very useful coding platform for schools who are still looking to fill the missing software gap that the new curriculum is sure to deliver. *This is the new BBC Micro logo. Look familiar?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bbc_micro