BBC micro:bit vs Arduino vs Raspberry Pi

With the BBC launching a million free micro:bits to children in year 7 all over Britain, now is the perfect time to get the nitty gritty on what it is and how it is different to some of the other pocket sized boards out there.

First up: what is the difference between a micro computer and a micro controller.

A micro computer has an interface that you can access by plugging it into a monitor of some kind, even a television. A micro controller has no interface, you write a program on a computer and upload just the code to the board. It has the capacity to store and run only one program at a time, but can be reprogrammed as many times as you like.

Ok, so now we have got that cleared up, let’s lets have a quick round up of our 3 favourites, so that you can tell your pis from your micros.

The Arduino has been around since 2005, and is our most used micro:controller at Tech Will Save Us. It is at the heart of the DIY Gamer, and is the driving force behind one of my favourite easy makes, the DIY Water Bomb Plant Watering System. It is a micro controller that has a loyal and supportive community behind it, so editing existing code shared online makes prototyping new projects quick and easy.

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a micro computer that was launched in 2015, is only £4 and is a 6cm long fully working Linux desktop, capable of playing video. Due to its size, it has mostly been used as a gaming emulator, as it is small enough to fit inside a nintendo controller or Xbox pad. It does not have great network connectivity, but would be perfect for making wearables.

Here’s a little micro:bit with it’s own sugru hair-do.

The BBC micro:bit is a small palm sized micro controller that has enough features to get any teenager into coding and making. 25 LED matrix screen, 2 buttons, compass, accelerometer and Bluetooth. As well as this, it has 3 PINs so that you can connect to external inputs and outputs like thermometers, lights and buzzers. The LED matrix can even be programmed to act as a light sensor. This is a ‘My First micro:controller” that neatly bridges the gap between screen based block coding, like Scratch, and programming physical projects. We have turned it into a pocket pet with the most voluminous sugru hair.

If you’re not an 11 year old who goes to school in the UK, chances are you won’t be receiving a BBC micro:bit for a while. Still interested in the world of programmable electronics? Check out our Start Arduino Kit, it’s the perfect introduction to the world of Arduino.

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