Author Topic: BBC Micro:Bit  (Read 16571 times)

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Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2015, 10:24:41 am »
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If even 1% of the children reached by the project get into it and develop a deeper interest in embedded development, it will have a true impact in the UK. What more can we ask for?
My point is that children won't get interested in programming because of the tiny size of the PCB or the fancy cut-outs. The companies should have invested their effort into easing the job that is needed to learn basic programming and experimenting with it instead. Tools designed for children should not be made more difficult but easier to use IMHO. With a fixed budget, injecting additional constraints (like: small +wearable +lowpower +doublesided + no casing, etc) drags the design out from their aim further and further.

Quote
from 2-16 or so
Now another problem: the group of "end-customers". It is a common truth that the wider audience - the less successful the product is. From the news I could infer this is targeted primarily at 7yo.. I have not seen the software that drives this thingy but I wonder what are their plans in that matter.
Is it based on  experiences of (or at least consulted with)LEGO Mindstorms (which is targeted at much older children) and similar hi-tech products for youngsters?


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and certainly know about USB connectors breaking off
Lets not generalize. Only micro-USB receptacles in SMD versions I have seen are exceptionally fragile when mated and the only thing you can expect is that this would discourage potential users and flood eBay with crippled micro:bits. Either they use rugged THT versions or switch to a USB-A etched version.  Or install some kind of strain relieve. Not on nRF version yet.
Additional problem with micro-USB is that the inserted plug protrudes under the PCB a bit. When placed on a flat desk, I think it is enough to press that reset button next to micro-USB firmly to break off the receptacle.. No good.
 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #26 on: July 12, 2015, 10:05:49 am »
Quote
If even 1% of the children reached by the project get into it and develop a deeper interest in embedded development, it will have a true impact in the UK. What more can we ask for?
My point is that children won't get interested in programming because of the tiny size of the PCB or the fancy cut-outs. The companies should have invested their effort into easing the job that is needed to learn basic programming and experimenting with it instead.
They are, it's evident they are making a very considerable effort to make the programming environment suitable for children while still allowing access to lower levels of abstraction as experience grows.
Quote
Tools designed for children should not be made more difficult but easier to use IMHO. With a fixed budget, injecting additional constraints (like: small +wearable +lowpower +doublesided + no casing, etc) drags the design out from their aim further and further.
I disagree; Kids absolutely are drawn to "cool gadgets", and dumbing down a learning device to make it more "child friendly" leads to something that gets thrown in the trash promptly because it's simply too limiting. Why shouldn't kids get to experiment with wearables? This is a board that I'd enjoy playing around with. That's a very good sign that kids would too. Do you really think a giant PCB, big power supply, enclosed in a box so you can only access the banana plugs you're supposed to, would be more appealing to kids? And what about cost? A small design like this can be mass-produced very easily and cheaply. What's better, spend twice as much on each one to make it more robust, or just make twice as many and allow some to fail? What about the learning experience of "oops, I applied 50V to it and it broke... guess I'll not do that again"?
Quote
Quote
from 2-16 or so
Now another problem: the group of "end-customers". It is a common truth that the wider audience - the less successful the product is. From the news I could infer this is targeted primarily at 7yo.. I have not seen the software that drives this thingy but I wonder what are their plans in that matter.
Is it based on  experiences of (or at least consulted with)LEGO Mindstorms (which is targeted at much older children) and similar hi-tech products for youngsters?
Looks like one of the better efforts of that sort that I've seen: https://www.touchdevelop.com/microbit

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and certainly know about USB connectors breaking off
Lets not generalize. Only micro-USB receptacles in SMD versions I have seen are exceptionally fragile when mated and the only thing you can expect is that this would discourage potential users and flood eBay with crippled micro:bits. Either they use rugged THT versions or switch to a USB-A etched version.  Or install some kind of strain relieve. Not on nRF version yet.
Additional problem with micro-USB is that the inserted plug protrudes under the PCB a bit. When placed on a flat desk, I think it is enough to press that reset button next to micro-USB firmly to break off the receptacle.. No good.

There are good and bad micro-USB sockets to use for devices which don't have an enclosure to take the strain. They seem to be using the type with the 4 through-hole shell pins which is one of the strongest ones, so I don't expect it to be a common issue. And this board clearly isn't designed for placing on your desk for extended periods of time anyway... More plug in USB, download code that flashes the light in response to waving it around, unplug, wave around, that sort of thing.
 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2015, 10:08:38 am »
If there is no external protection then connecting a 3.3v supply straight into a low digital output is not a great plan.  It might survive or it might not.  Possibly they have cunningly arranged the connector so the contacts adjacent to the large ones are all inputs?

It is probably possible to provide useful protection to i/o against that sort of thing.

I'm more concerned about fingers "full of static" directly touching the IC leads.That's inevitable given the form factor and where buttons are.

The NRF51 is surprisingly robust... I've got dozens of boards with it flying around without a case and not managed to burn one out with static yet. Or shorting i/o for that matter. Or many other things I've inadvertently tried to break them...
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #28 on: July 12, 2015, 10:34:37 am »
If there is no external protection then connecting a 3.3v supply straight into a low digital output is not a great plan.  It might survive or it might not.  Possibly they have cunningly arranged the connector so the contacts adjacent to the large ones are all inputs?

It is probably possible to provide useful protection to i/o against that sort of thing.

I'm more concerned about fingers "full of static" directly touching the IC leads.That's inevitable given the form factor and where buttons are.

The NRF51 is surprisingly robust... I've got dozens of boards with it flying around without a case and not managed to burn one out with static yet. Or shorting i/o for that matter. Or many other things I've inadvertently tried to break them...

That's hopeful, but do you plant fingers all over the board and ICs (including non-I/O pins) while using it, and/or while/after walking across plastic floorcoverings? And there are other ICs on the board.

I/O shorting doesn't concern me, since protection against that is easily understood from the data sheet.

Time will tell.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #29 on: July 12, 2015, 12:37:35 pm »
If there is no external protection then connecting a 3.3v supply straight into a low digital output is not a great plan.  It might survive or it might not.  Possibly they have cunningly arranged the connector so the contacts adjacent to the large ones are all inputs?

It is probably possible to provide useful protection to i/o against that sort of thing.

I'm more concerned about fingers "full of static" directly touching the IC leads.That's inevitable given the form factor and where buttons are.

The NRF51 is surprisingly robust... I've got dozens of boards with it flying around without a case and not managed to burn one out with static yet. Or shorting i/o for that matter. Or many other things I've inadvertently tried to break them...

That's hopeful, but do you plant fingers all over the board and ICs (including non-I/O pins) while using it, and/or while/after walking across plastic floorcoverings? And there are other ICs on the board.

I/O shorting doesn't concern me, since protection against that is easily understood from the data sheet.

Time will tell.

Yes, that's pretty much exactly what I do... and I used to work in an office with ridiculous static-building carpeting as well (I've crashed a unibody macbook with static before). And as it happens the boards I'm working with have some of the same other ICs on them as well.

I don't really think static is quite as big an issue these days as it's made out to be... but of course nobody wants to take the risk in a production environment especially as supposedly the faults could manifest at random times in the future.
 

Offline apis

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #30 on: July 12, 2015, 11:17:05 pm »
Are children supposed to use these in school? I would worry about many teachers hating this and any kid that understands it better than them... That's how it was with computers when they were new.
 

Offline westfw

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #31 on: July 13, 2015, 08:23:43 am »
"7th year" is thirteen year olds...
 

Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #32 on: July 13, 2015, 04:55:03 pm »
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"7th year" is thirteen year olds...
You are right, it said:
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will give a personal coding device free to every child in year 7 across the country
 

Offline RogerClark

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #33 on: July 14, 2015, 06:14:12 am »
I'm in agreement over the problem with using croc clips.

Putting the VCC and GND in close proximity to each other, with some other conductive connector stripes in between, is IMHO asking for trouble.

Just having that much exposed copper is asking for trouble, Imagine kids sitting at tables each with one of these things running of a battery pack. How long would it be before 2 of them came into contact.

If it happens to be plugged into the USB when the VCC and GND are shorted, its going to take out the 3.3V regulator (I presume it must have one or do these NRF chips also run on 5V ?)


The other design issue is the micro USB connector, because they are only physically attached to the board via 2 small solder pads, and generally can not withstand much force being applied e.g. when attached to a thick / standard USB cable, or merely being over zealously plugged in.

I've had to repair several small boards which have this style of connector, by re-soldering the SM usb connections and then eposy'ing the whole connector down.


Re: Cost to UK tax payers

As far as I can tell, its unclear who is paying for what. Certainly some stuff is getting donated, but I don't know if the BBC has actually said the cost to the UK TV licence payers is zero.


BTW. There is a thread on Slashdot about this, with basically the similar sorts of responses, and also Wired
site and also comments on the various YouTube videos.

 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2015, 03:17:34 am »
I'm in agreement over the problem with using croc clips.

Putting the VCC and GND in close proximity to each other, with some other conductive connector stripes in between, is IMHO asking for trouble.

Just having that much exposed copper is asking for trouble, Imagine kids sitting at tables each with one of these things running of a battery pack. How long would it be before 2 of them came into contact.

If it happens to be plugged into the USB when the VCC and GND are shorted, its going to take out the 3.3V regulator (I presume it must have one or do these NRF chips also run on 5V ?)


The other design issue is the micro USB connector, because they are only physically attached to the board via 2 small solder pads, and generally can not withstand much force being applied e.g. when attached to a thick / standard USB cable, or merely being over zealously plugged in.

I've had to repair several small boards which have this style of connector, by re-soldering the SM usb connections and then eposy'ing the whole connector down.


Re: Cost to UK tax payers

As far as I can tell, its unclear who is paying for what. Certainly some stuff is getting donated, but I don't know if the BBC has actually said the cost to the UK TV licence payers is zero.


BTW. There is a thread on Slashdot about this, with basically the similar sorts of responses, and also Wired
site and also comments on the various YouTube videos.

We already discussed the USB connector, it is not the weak type you are thinking of. From the video I think it is this type, with the 4 DIP legs: http://www.digikey.co.uk/product-detail/en/10118194-0001LF/609-4618-1-ND/2785382 (there's a characteristic shape to the back legs which can be seen in the video).
It's really not a problem if some of these break. That's what real electronics do when you mess with them. Not often, but if you abuse them, they will, and that's a good learning experience too. Let's not smother children in some dull Fisherprice electronics plugboard please!

Cost to taxpayers, or license payers (not the same thing, I haven't paid for a tv license in more than 10 years since I don't care about watching live broadcasts)? Of course it's not going to be 0, if nothing else there is the time spent by BBC staff on coordinating and managing the project. But the multiplier from the donations in time and material from the participating companies means that the value obtained is enormous. And so what? This project is squarely in line with furthering multiple of the BBCs public purposes, such as "Promoting education and learning" and "Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence", and arguably a few of the others as well. If you choose the buy a TV license, then don't complain that the money is getting used in accordance with the agreement between the BBC and the country! I'd much rather it gets spent on a project like this, which no matter what you think about niggling details of the implementation is going to help at least some kids to develop or further an interest in programming, science or electronics, rather than another inane "reality tv show".

I'm frankly disappointed by the reaction in this forum and as you pointed out others. I know as engineers our first intuition when seeing a project is to see the little niggling details that don't conform with our own preferences for this or that, often well-founded and based in experience. But isn't that a little missing the forest for the trees?

Out of my friends in the computer and electronics industry in the UK, at least half developed their interest initially by programming on a BBC micro. Just imagine what the reaction to that project would have been on our forum when it was first announced!

In my view the BBC really lost their way for a long time in the 90s and 00s, and I think it's fantastic that they are spawning projects like this one again.
 

Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2015, 05:21:21 pm »
We already discussed the USB connector, it is not the weak type you are thinking of. From the video I think it is this type, with the 4 DIP legs

We must be blind then..
Where do you see a THT drill for that pins on the back of the PCB??

The available data (photo) indicate what was described - they add artificial constrains ("face look" and/or BBC micro logo in this case) which drags them away from their goal IMHO..

Any reference or pictures supporting your THT suggestion? It may be that they updated that PCB but as far as I can see such photos were not published.. Please post a link.

Here you can see a THT microUSB receptacle bottom view from STM32F429-Discovery (very bottom edge of a PCB).


Quote
I disagree; Kids absolutely are drawn to "cool gadgets", and dumbing down a learning device to make it more "child friendly" leads to something that gets thrown in the trash promptly because it's simply too limiting.
OTOH it might be that the more the PCB cut-out mimics a pony, the more 13-yo gets interested in embedded programming :-DD
 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #36 on: July 16, 2015, 02:48:09 am »
(snip)
We must be blind then..
Where do you see a THT drill for that pins on the back of the PCB??
(snip)

Quote
I disagree; Kids absolutely are drawn to "cool gadgets", and dumbing down a learning device to make it more "child friendly" leads to something that gets thrown in the trash promptly because it's simply too limiting.
OTOH it might be that the more the PCB cut-out mimics a pony, the more 13-yo gets interested in embedded programming :-DD

You're right about it being a pure SMT receptacle, which is not the best for this application but at least it's a decent one with 4 support legs.

Anyway I was going to go off on a rant again but just consider this... A project like this has customers, which are the children. It's got to give them something that they see as a benefit. Which will be different for different kids. A project that would only consider some "pure" educational goals would hit 1% of those.

This project is pretty clever; For one kid, it's a fun blinkenlights necklace; to another, a remote shutter button for their phone; to another it controls the music on their phone; and perhaps you could use it to build a robot around.
And to do any of that, you use that program that lets you change what it does by dragging some boxes around. And what do you know, you could make it do something else entirely... Like whatever you want. And you can connect whatever you want to it. And isn't that what got all of us into computers and electronics in the first place?

The BBC Micro for most kids was the box you played games on. And if you ran out of games, you typed in one from a magazine. And then maybe you're curious what the stuff you typed in actually does, and what happens if you change that? Maybe you could write your own game.

Which is so different from the experience that kids have today with most of the electronics they interact with. So let's let them have some fun too, no?
 

Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2015, 03:04:37 pm »
You're right about it being a pure SMT receptacle, (..) but at least it's a decent one with 4 support legs.
It looks like USB is one of your favourite subjects :)
No, it is not decent and AFAIK all microUSB receptacles have 4 pads so nothing unexpected here. IMHO the microUSB in SMD version is the flimsiest USB connector available on the market. YMMV.

Quote
Anyway I was going to go off on a rant again but just consider this...(..) A project that would only consider some "pure" educational goals would hit 1% of those.
Isn't that the whole point of the BBC micro:bit project?
It is targeted at very narrow group of children, those 1% that could become embedded software developers in the near future. No need for ponies to get involved. If you want ponies and necklaces then you need a second project that is targeting another 1%.
BTW, the LED necklace requires beefy battery pack dangling over your belly so that is for 1% out of those 1% of 13-yo that like necklaces  ;D
 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #38 on: July 18, 2015, 04:45:41 am »
You're right about it being a pure SMT receptacle, (..) but at least it's a decent one with 4 support legs.
It looks like USB is one of your favourite subjects :)
No, it is not decent and AFAIK all microUSB receptacles have 4 pads so nothing unexpected here. IMHO the microUSB in SMD version is the flimsiest USB connector available on the market. YMMV.
Well, I've certainly "been there, done that" when it comes to bad microUSB connectors. The first board I designed with microUSB used an unsuitable one which indeed only has two mechanical pads. And I didn't know at the time that it is good practice to add additional stencil windows under the body of the connector, so certainly quite a few of those got ripped off by the cable. That's a very common version btw, and it is not suitable unless it's in an enclosure that provides a second point of support as otherwise the mechanical support is all in one line and the cable is able to act as a strong lever against that -> snapped off (btw, there's poor versions of miniUSB too, that I've seen snapped off...).

Having 4 mechanical pads at the front and back of the connector does make things a lot better, especially with a small PCB like this. I suspect that they have / will submit the design to sufficient end-user testing to figure out whether or not that connector is an issue.

Quote
Anyway I was going to go off on a rant again but just consider this...(..) A project that would only consider some "pure" educational goals would hit 1% of those.
Isn't that the whole point of the BBC micro:bit project?
It is targeted at very narrow group of children, those 1% that could become embedded software developers in the near future. No need for ponies to get involved. If you want ponies and necklaces then you need a second project that is targeting another 1%.
BTW, the LED necklace requires beefy battery pack dangling over your belly so that is for 1% out of those 1% of 13-yo that like necklaces  ;D
[/quote]

Indeed it seems like we have ended up with different understandings of the aims of the project, I think the people behind the project (and I can't really speak for them, obviously) are aiming at something more similar to an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, that is something that can inspire a lot of people beyond what the designers could envision at the time of coming up with the project. There's no way of knowing now whether they will succeed, but putting a million+ of them out into the world gives it the best possible launch, really. And plugging in a smaller battery is not beyond the wits of most 13 year olds, I'd wager... I don't think it's a coincidence that the board is using a pretty common battery connector (though the previous version had a CR2032 socket on the back, nice for "pick up & go").
 

Offline westfw

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #39 on: July 18, 2015, 07:19:14 am »
I'd be pretty happy if a lot more people could "program a little bit" (ie, modify a Micro:Bit to display a different pattern, or slightly modify an Arduino sketch.)  The comparison to paintbrushes were spot on: I'm nowhere near an artist, but I still learned some useful things in art classes.  The idea that you can't do anything with a computer except run apps (and NOTHING if it's the kind of computer that doesn't run apps), unless you have a CS degree belongs in the past...

(I went to grade school partway through the "new math" revolution, and most math classes from 4th grade up had some sort of other-base math.  No much; just some conversions and such.  I didn't do any real programming till 11th grade, but by then the whole binary/octal/hex/decimal was something that didn't surprise me at all.  (I see would-be programmers struggle with this now, and it makes me cringe that we apparently lost this.)  Maybe, if kids get exposed to turtle graphics in elementary school, and Raspberry Pi and/or Micro:bit in middle school, and get the opportunity for a real programming class in HS, we'll see a lot less ... technical illiteracy.)
 

Online tggzzz

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #40 on: July 18, 2015, 08:48:24 am »
(I went to grade school partway through the "new math" revolution, and most math classes from 4th grade up had some sort of other-base math.  No much; just some conversions and such.  I didn't do any real programming till 11th grade, but by then the whole binary/octal/hex/decimal was something that didn't surprise me at all.  (I see would-be programmers struggle with this now, and it makes me cringe that we apparently lost this.)  Maybe, if kids get exposed to turtle graphics in elementary school, and Raspberry Pi and/or Micro:bit in middle school, and get the opportunity for a real programming class in HS, we'll see a lot less ... technical illiteracy.)

We had to learn, and practice endlessly, base 2,3,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,20,22,112 arithmetic (and others I've thankfully forgotten or can't be bothered to thnk about!). Some were for currency and some for weights and measures. Nowadays more or less everything is decimal here, but don't you still have to know the bases for non-metric weights and measures?
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #41 on: August 10, 2015, 05:53:00 pm »
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 05:57:01 pm by Brutte »
 

Offline janekm

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #42 on: August 11, 2015, 07:16:54 pm »
More technical info (and background story) on the development process is here, btw (came across it a bit by coincidence): https://developer.mbed.org/blog/entry/bbc-microbit-mbed-hdk/

Also the micro:bit has already been released onto the mbed platform, so one could write some code for it already if so inclined... testing could be a bit awkward though ;)
 

Offline Brutte

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #43 on: March 02, 2016, 11:55:54 am »
Pink version, with THT USB receptacle.
 

Offline apis

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2016, 10:22:32 pm »
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2016, 10:29:20 pm »
No CE mark... wonder if it's been EMC tested?

#include <rasp_pi_shipping_delay_story_e14_ce.txt>

Offline rolycat

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #46 on: June 11, 2016, 10:42:34 pm »
No CE mark... wonder if it's been EMC tested?

#include <rasp_pi_shipping_delay_story_e14_ce.txt>
From the website:

The BBC micro:bit has been designed to be a bare-board micro controller for use by children aged 11-12. The device has been through extensive safety and compliance testing to the following standards:

Safety
IEC 60950-1:2005 (Second Edition) + Am 1:2009 + Am 2:2013
EMC
EN 55032: 2012
EN 55024: 2010
EN 55022:2010
EN 301 489-1 V1.9.2 (2011-09)
EN 301 489-17 V2.2.1 (2012-09)
Radio Spectrum
ETSI EN 300 328 V1.9.1 (2015-02)
EN 62479:2010
Chemical
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) 2011/65/EU Annex II article 4(1)
EN71-3:2013 + A1:2014 - Migration of certain elements.
Analysis of the 163 substances of very high concern (SVHC) on the Candidate List for authorization, concerning Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 as published on the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) website.

(Bluetooth 4.0 logo, CE mark, WEEE symbol)
 

Offline timofonic

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #47 on: June 12, 2016, 06:38:36 am »
Can this be the ARM of Arduinos? I don't like Microsoft is behind this...
 

Offline 3db

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #48 on: June 12, 2016, 03:31:31 pm »
I'd like to play with one of these, but my main question is, how do I get my hands on one?  :-DD

It's now available to buy.
Try Farnell.

 ;D
 

Offline linker3000

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Re: BBC Micro:Bit
« Reply #49 on: June 18, 2016, 09:32:32 pm »
You can preorder now for delivery 'in July'.

Farnell are only taking bulk orders, but others are selling singles:

http://cpc.farnell.com/bbc-microbit#Order

http://cpc.farnell.com/bbc-microbit-reseller

« Last Edit: June 18, 2016, 09:34:07 pm by linker3000 »
 


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