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BBC to distribute mini-computer devices to children in UK

13 March 2015

The BBC plans to distributing mini-computing devices to 11-year-old children throughout the country under its initiative to make the UK more digital.

It will offer  to all pupils starting from secondary school tens of thousands of Micro Bits stripped-down systems much like a low-cost credit card-sized Raspberry Pi that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.

The BBC would introduce a period of coding-based programmes and events involving a new drama game coding, based on a Grand Theft Auto Bletchley Park documentary.

The UK faces shortage of around 1.4 million ''digital specialists'' projected to be required by the country over the next five years.

The BBC was teaming up with several organisations including Google, Microsoft, Young Rewired State, BT, TeenTech, and Code Club, to address the shortfall.

General director Tony Hall said this was precisely what the BBC was everything about bringing the market together on a large scale and creating the difference for millions.

He added, the BBC brought simple partners together to try something so enthusiastic, which was essential to UK's future on the worldwide scene.

The BBC's Make It Digital initiative is aimed at inspiring digital creativity in young people across the UK. Micro Bit would be provided free to more than 1 million UK school kids, which was every child in the 7th class in the country.

The BBC hopes that this would enable children take up coding at a young age to inspire them to emerge software engineers and technology leaders of the future.

"We are hoping to create a generation of makers; the next generation of digital innovators. We want to channel the spirit of the Micro for the digital age," Hall said at an event in London yesterday.

The Micro Bit project builds on the legacy of the seminal BBC Micro, which was introduced in the majority of schools in the 1980s and which in a way launched careers of many of today's technology pioneers.

At the event, some school children were allowed to play around with the prototype ahead of the launch to show what it could do. Some of the devices on show were used LEDs to flash lettering and make messages, and could be clipped to a piece of clothing to act as a wearable.

Though Micro Bit was only a prototype at the moment, the BBC had teamed up with UK chip designer ARM, and tech firms including Google, Microsoft, Samsung and BT, to push the digital initiative and get the device in the hands of young people around the time of the new academic year in September.

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