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BBC shows off design of new Micro:bit computer for schools

The original BBC Micro was how many adults of today first ventured into the world of computing. Produced throughout the ’80s as a rugged, education-focused computer, it gave users access to programs of various types and the ability to write their own. It also helped children of that period get their first taste of gaming and is often credited with kick-starting the British gaming industry.

Now well into the second decade of the 21st century, the British Broadcasting Company is looking to give British computing another push, with the upcoming launch of the BBC Micro:bit, a miniature form factor machine that will be given away for free to school children around the country starting this October.

We now know the specifications for the little system too. It will feature an ARM Coreex M-0 processor, five I/O rings, two buttons for interactivity, a five-by-five red LED matrix, a Bluetooth 4.0 LTE antenna, compass, magnetometer, and accelerometer, as well as a USB power port and a battery connector for keeping it on without a cable connection.

Related: Forget the remote, the BBC is experimenting with a mind-controlled iPlayer

All of this is built into a circuit board just 4 centimeters by 5 centimeters. That’s smaller than a credit card, as Hexus points out.

The best part is that every single “year-seven” student in the U.K. (sixth grade in the U.S.) aged between 11 and 12 will receive one of these for free. On top of getting the hardware though, Microsoft has partnered with the BBC to help teach the children basic programming. They’ll be able to hook the device up to their smartphone, tablet or desktop and program in functions that take advantage of the on board sensors.

As automation becomes a bigger factor in many professions, one of the biggest areas of growth expected in technological jobs is in programming. Do you think that getting kids started at an early age is a good way to prepare the U.K. workforce for the future?