The BBC Micro:bit has gone up for public pre-order in the UK starting at a mere £12.99 for the micro-computer and £14.99 for a complete starter kit.
The starter kit comes with the mini-computer, a battery pack, mini-USB cable and four project ideas to get started with learning how to code on the hardware.
A £140 Micro:bit Club pack is available, offering 10 Micro:bits, 10 USB cables, battery holders and 20 AAA batteries, which the BBC said is enough to get coding clubs, school classes, scouts and other programming-focused social gatherings up and running.
Pre-orders of the Micro:bit and its packages and kits are available on the Element14 website, Microsoft’s online store and the sites of other reseller partners. Shipments are slated for July.
The Micro:bit was originally designed to help teach one million UK children how to code and learn programming skills, but the keen price should put it in reach of schools and families around Britain. The initial rollout was expanded to Year 7 pupils in March.
The Micro:bit was blighted by months of delays, initially owing to power problems and then the need to fine tune the basic computer. The rollout was delayed from Christmas 2015 to February 2016.
Devices such as the Raspberry Pi, now in its third generation, offer entry-level ways for children and technology enthusiasts to dabble cheaply in coding on computer hardware.
But the Micro:bit differs by being able to connect to computers over built-in Bluetooth, meaning that students do not have to use a separate keyboard and mouse and can interact with the device through a web interface.
It also means that the Micro:bit can be accessed via smartphones and tablets.
It remains to be seen whether the Micro:bit can ape the success and scope of the Raspberry Pi, but it should at least go some way to improving the teaching of coding in schools and helping to plug the UK’s digital skills gap.
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