Another New Chip, BBC Micro:Bit Go

Just saw this in a Fry's ad, know nothing about it. It's getting hard to keep up with every new STEM item that promises "learn to code". I'm neither endorsing nor planning to buy, just pointing out.

http://www.frys.com/product/9204099#detailed
"When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

- Pablo Picasso
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  • 70 Comments sorted by Date Added Votes
  • Yeah, I can't keep up either.

    Give me a Propeller and a Pi. That covers most things I want to do. At least non-professionally.

    The BBC Micro Bit seems to be a thing back home in Blighty as they have some kind of plan to make them available to all school kids there.



  • jmgjmg Posts: 10,345
    erco wrote: »
    Another New Chip, BBC Micro:Bit Go
    Not so much Another New Chip, as a new module.

    From the UK, and earliest candidate versions had an AVR in them, but that morphed to a couple of ARM's.

    I like the large holes for banana plugs and the edge connector hybrid. Nicely covers a couple of IO choices bases there.

  • Yeah, Fry's have had these for a couple of months but have had them listed on a Promo Code for the past couple of weeks. At least at the Roseville, CA store someone keeps buying up the stock for some STEM education thing.

    There are multiple editor options including a MS Blocky type and a Python Editor that can be used to code the Micro:Bit.
  • I've got one (from Adafruit). I haven't had time to do much more than try out a Demo including recompiling it and reloading it using a Mac. Works fine.
  • I ordered one as well. I got mine from SparkFun because it was cheaper than AdaFruit and also had cheaper shipping. Does this board really have a couple of ARM chips? Why more than one?
  • SeairthSeairth Posts: 2,211
    edited July 7 Vote Up0Vote Down
    David Betz wrote: »
    I ordered one as well. I got mine from SparkFun because it was cheaper than AdaFruit and also had cheaper shipping. Does this board really have a couple of ARM chips? Why more than one?

    this should answer your question (starting at 12:47):

  • That's a great price! $15 from SparkFun and you get an M0, buttons, LEDs, accelerometer, compas, and bluetooth that can be programmed with a graphical interface, Micropython, AND mbed! That's a truly fantastic package.
    David
    PropWare: C++ HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer) for PropGCC; Robust build system using CMake; Integrated Simple Library, libpropeller, and libPropelleruino (Arduino port); Instructions for Eclipse and JetBrain's CLion; Example projects; Doxygen documentation
  • One bummer is that there isn't enough FLASH and RAM to handle MicroPython and the BLE stack. But there is a "radio" API https://microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/latest/tutorials/radio.html
  • KeithE wrote: »
    One bummer is that there isn't enough FLASH and RAM to handle MicroPython and the BLE stack. But there is a "radio" API https://microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/latest/tutorials/radio.html
    Is there enough for JavaScript+BLE? Maybe it's time for me to port XLISP to the Micro:Bit! :-)

  • Seairth wrote: »
    David Betz wrote: »
    I ordered one as well. I got mine from SparkFun because it was cheaper than AdaFruit and also had cheaper shipping. Does this board really have a couple of ARM chips? Why more than one?

    this should answer your question (starting at 12:47):

    So I guess the second ARM is only there to support mbed? Any idea if it can be used independently?

  • The BBC ("Brexit Bashing Corporation") had great success in the 1980s with their computers ("BBC Micros") and they are trying to regain those dizzy heights. BBC Micros were the de-facto standard in UK schools and in many homes (the sort of home in which the the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and its ilk were frowned upon as common!). The BBC itself distributed software and had series of TV programmes related to it. Acorn followed this up with the Archimedes but that didn't amount to much.

    This was in the days of only four TV channels (two of which were BBC) and it took seriously its (unstated) remit for education (it was a nationalised company then, perceived as a benevolent partner to other
    organisations such as the Department for Education). Lots more channels and the need to show a profit and so anything to do with science / technology took a back seat in favour of lowbrow shows that got the ratings.

    South Saxons - "we wunt be druv".
  • Huge,
    Acorn followed this up with the Archimedes but that didn't amount to much.
    That made me chuckle. Whilst the Archi did not survive against the onslaught of the IBM PC the ARM processor that was developed for it is now in nearly every phone and tablet in the world!

    And of course the Raspberry Pi and Micro Bit are ARM based. The circle is complete. The Pi has shipped 13 million units. Far more than the BBC micro ever did.

    I would not say it did not amount to much!
  • David Betz,
    Is there enough for JavaScript+BLE?
    Seems there is: http://www.espruino.com/MicroBit

    It's a bit limited compared to other Espruino running micro-controllers. But I guess Micro Python is as well.
  • KeithEKeithE Posts: 824
    edited July 7 Vote Up0Vote Down
    David Betz wrote: »
    KeithE wrote: »
    One bummer is that there isn't enough FLASH and RAM to handle MicroPython and the BLE stack. But there is a "radio" API https://microbit-micropython.readthedocs.io/en/latest/tutorials/radio.html
    Is there enough for JavaScript+BLE? Maybe it's time for me to port XLISP to the Micro:Bit! :-)

    As far as I can tell this has 256 kbytes of FLASH and 16 kbytes of RAM.

    From this thread https://github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython/issues/71 :

    "We've been working with the Nordic BLE stack for sometime now to help support the other languages, and it really is a VERY memory intensive (and a rather invasive beast). The stack needs about 100k of FLASH, statically allocated... and that's for the smallest version of the 'soft device' stack currnently available chip. In addition, the stack also statically reserves 8K of SRAM before it starts. It also need another 1.5K SRAM to support its SDKs, and consumes up to 2K more on the stack when any deep interrupts fire."

    "Even with enough RAM (eg on a 32k device) it's still going to be hard to support BLE because of the flash requirements: the soft device needs 112k, leaving 144k for application."

    If you find out that some progress has been made please post. The radio API could be fun to play with though - looks very simple. But I was hoping for BLE.

    Edited to add: too bad they didn't use the Nordic nRF52832 with 64 kbytes RAM and 512 kbytes FLASH instead of the nRF51822, but I guess it would have driven the cost up. (Some comparisons here - https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/blogs/792/new-features-in-nrf52/)

    Espruino discusses what they had to cut here - http://www.espruino.com/MicroBit
  • KeithEKeithE Posts: 824
    edited July 12 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Note that Microsoft's make code uses javascript. You can see both the block view and javascript view. By default the simplified radio package is loaded, but you can replace that with bluetooth. I haven't played around with that part much yet.

    https://makecode.microbit.org/#

    I was in Fry's so I had to pick up a pair of these. I've attached some images so you can see how the "Go" version is packaged. This just adds a AAAx2 battery pack and a pathetically short USB cable.

    On my old HP chromebook getting it to mount as a drive seems to be a bit flakey, but I was able to get it to work. It works better with OS X Yosemite.

    I was curious what goes on behind the scenes, so I tried looking through the generated hex file to see what javascript engine is being used but couldn't figure it out. (Using srec_cat and strings. I can find the names of some .c files, but they don't look javascript related.)

    Edited to add: I guess this is what is used? "MakeCode’s underlying programming language is a subset of TypeScript, omitting JavaScript dynamic features."

    https://makecode.com/about
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  • ercoerco Posts: 18,319
    OK, I caved and ordered two, you guys made Mr. Roboto feel left out. Another distraction!
    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • erco - it's for the kids! right?
  • Here's a simple program to demonstrate that the radio is working. You use the A/B buttons to setup each as a transmitter or receiver. Then walk around your house and see how well it works. Note that the IDE simulates both the transmitter and receiver here - I didn't know it could do that. The receiver popped up when I enabled the transmitter by pressing the virtual B button.
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  • jmgjmg Posts: 10,345
    KeithE wrote: »
    As far as I can tell this has 256 kbytes of FLASH and 16 kbytes of RAM.

    From this thread https://github.com/bbcmicrobit/micropython/issues/71 :

    "We've been working with the Nordic BLE stack for sometime now to help support the other languages, and it really is a VERY memory intensive (and a rather invasive beast). The stack needs about 100k of FLASH, statically allocated... and that's for the smallest version of the 'soft device' stack currnently available chip. In addition, the stack also statically reserves 8K of SRAM before it starts. It also need another 1.5K SRAM to support its SDKs, and consumes up to 2K more on the stack when any deep interrupts fire."

    "Even with enough RAM (eg on a 32k device) it's still going to be hard to support BLE because of the flash requirements: the soft device needs 112k, leaving 144k for application."

    If you find out that some progress has been made please post. The radio API could be fun to play with though - looks very simple. But I was hoping for BLE.

    Edited to add: too bad they didn't use the Nordic nRF52832 with 64 kbytes RAM and 512 kbytes FLASH instead of the nRF51822, but I guess it would have driven the cost up. (Some comparisons here - https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/blogs/792/new-features-in-nrf52/)

    Espruino discusses what they had to cut here - http://www.espruino.com/MicroBit

    All this effort has to be good news for P2, as those languages and flows and code sizes are right in P2 ballpark.
    Better than RaspPi, which lets developers be much lazier in coding.

    I was thinking a PiZero form factor made sense for a P2 compact Module, but maybe there is room for a micro:bit format too ?
  • ercoerco Posts: 18,319
    KeithE wrote: »
    erco - it's for the kids! right?

    You got it, pal! With twins, I need two of everything!

    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • I'm not sure why they only provided that funky edge connector? I was thinking that I might be able to solder on a standard header, but the pitch is off by a factor of 2 in the wrong direction. So it's not super breadboard friendly. There are a lot of unused pins, but they put pins such as SPI together tightly. Doesn't look like there are enough pins to handle all of the typical Parallax robot sensors directly in any case.

    One possible demo for these boards would be to remote control robots of course. For example as far as I can tell, this should be trivial to accomplish - http://learn.parallax.com/tutorials/xbee-wireless-sumobot-tilt-controller
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  • I'm not sure why they only provided that funky edge connector?

    There is a Connector Breakout board for the MocroBit, and I have seen folks just bolt on a header using the holes on the board to gain access to the other pins.

    https://kitronik.co.uk/5601-edge-connector-breakout-board.html

    However, such a board would be interesting with a Propeller 44-Pin QFP on it.
  • KeithE wrote: »
    I'm not sure why they only provided that funky edge connector? I was thinking that I might be able to solder on a standard header, but the pitch is off by a factor of 2 in the wrong direction. So it's not super breadboard friendly. There are a lot of unused pins, but they put pins such as SPI together tightly. Doesn't look like there are enough pins to handle all of the typical Parallax robot sensors directly in any case.

    One possible demo for these boards would be to remote control robots of course. For example as far as I can tell, this should be trivial to accomplish - http://learn.parallax.com/tutorials/xbee-wireless-sumobot-tilt-controller
    Maybe someone will make a Propeller board with a socket to plug in a Micro:Bit so you can use the Propeller as the "nervous system" and the Micro:Bit for the "brains".
  • erco wrote: »
    KeithE wrote: »
    erco - it's for the kids! right?

    You got it, pal! With twins, I need two of everything!

    ...but doesn't Mrs. Erco have three kids???
    :lol:
    MOV OUTA, PEACE <div>Rick </div><div>"I've stopped using programming languages with Garbage Collection, they keep deleting my source code!!"</div>
  • KeithE wrote: »
    ..... I've attached some images so you can see how the "Go" version is packaged. This just adds a AAAx2 battery pack and a pathetically short USB cable. ...

    I went to my local Micro Center to buy a "Raspberry Pi 3 kit" that contained a Raspberry Pi3, a 7" LCD display (800 x 480 pixels) with a driver board (The driver board takes in Composite Video, VGA, and HDMI as inputs). The kit also included a bunch of other accessories. I can also use the display with my "Propeller Hydra" and "Propeller Demo" boards.

    I saw the "BBC Micro:Bit Go version kit" on the shelf, so I picked one up. I have not powered it up yet.

    There was not very much Parallax stuff in the store, so sad :frown:, but I did buy a Parallax 4 x 20 Serial LCD (Backlit) (#27979-RT) on closeout for $17.91.

    I wish the "Propeller 2" chip was complete, so I could be using it in my projects. But, the P2 development seems to be like the "Eveready Energizer Bunny", it just keeps on going, and going, and going.

    I am active in a local Hackerspace and often direct "Newbies" visiting our Hackerspace to the local Micro Center store, so they can get started with robots and micros. But it is very hard to get them started with Parallax products if they are not available in the local store.

    During my visit to Micro Center, I was also happy to see more electronic components and related items in the hobby electronics section. Since, all the local RadioShack(s) have now closed, Micro Center seems to be expanding their selection.
  • mindrobots wrote: »
    erco wrote: »
    KeithE wrote: »
    erco - it's for the kids! right?

    You got it, pal! With twins, I need two of everything!

    ...but doesn't Mrs. Erco have three kids???
    :lol:

    You got that right! :)

    Infernal Machine
  • ercoerco Posts: 18,319
    mindrobots wrote: »

    ...but doesn't Mrs. Erco have three kids???

    It's the new math! Common core! No child left behind!

    "When you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty, and so everybody can like it when others make it after you."

    - Pablo Picasso
  • jmgjmg Posts: 10,345
    David Betz wrote: »
    Maybe someone will make a Propeller board with a socket to plug in a Micro:Bit so you can use the Propeller as the "nervous system" and the Micro:Bit for the "brains".

    Interesting idea. Micro:bit is not much more $ than a WiFi module, but IO limited.
    Any ideas on connector prices ?

  • jmg wrote: »
    David Betz wrote: »
    Maybe someone will make a Propeller board with a socket to plug in a Micro:Bit so you can use the Propeller as the "nervous system" and the Micro:Bit for the "brains".

    Interesting idea. Micro:bit is not much more $ than a WiFi module, but IO limited.
    Any ideas on connector prices ?
    AdaFruit has it for $3.95 but I suppose it can be gotten cheaper elsewhere.

    https://www.adafruit.com/product/3342
  • KeithEKeithE Posts: 824
    edited July 14 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I'm a cheapskate and didn't want to wait for an order, so just soldered a standard header onto it to connect P0, P1, P2, 3V, and GND. This just fits into a Sumobot breadboard. I soldered a jumper to the BasicStamp's reset button to hold it in reset which should hopefully prevent any contention for the pins. Used a LP2950 that I had to generate 3.3V for the Micro:bit. So far I've only verified that P0 and P1 can control the servos. Now onto the transmit and receive code.

    I'm thinking that both should display the radio group number on their LEDs. One button could be used to change groups. And maybe the other button on the transmitter could enable/disable the servos. So you can easily control starting/stopping the beast.

    Anyways - one way to demonstrate that Parallax and Micro:bit can coexist. I always thought that anyone doing Sumobot should spend some time controlling the bot to get a feel for it. And maybe kids would enjoy kids versus robot. I had put on an ESP8266 board into a sumobot before and used Roboremo, but this Micro:bit approach seems much easier and doesn't require a smartphone/tablet.

    Edited to add: Also for anyone who's interested in what Fry's think "Makers" want: http://images.frys.com/art/email/071317_thu973grx_Maker/Maker_web.html
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