Category: Tech

April 21st, 2017 by Matneee

Update – The code for this can be found HERE if you’re interested in having a look. It’s very much a first pass at time of writing, but it works well enough to get the idea.

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Yup, that’s 1980s throwback gaming sensation Uridium. On a Micro:bit!!!

Kinda.

Sorta…

Well, no not really. I was trying to use an old Nokia 5110 LCD screen as a Micro:bit display in Micropython, so I could get it to output more info without plugging it into a PC. But it turns out it was so slow that I pretty much would rather have beat myself to death with my own spleen than use it. So I thought I’d have a quick try at making it run a little better.

Anyway, it worked rather well as it happen – the frame rates jumped up by about 3000%. Although I should point out they were less than 1fps to start with so let’s not go mad here. And I’ve now got the reverse problem – I had to put in a 25ms delay between screen updates to stop the LCD from blurring or ghosting or whatever the cool kids are calling it today.

I’ll do a proper write up of this when I’ve got a little more time, as I’ve done a series of commands for working with characters (including a decent font) that could also be useful. Which is what I was trying to do in the first place before I lost the plot and started shoving 80s video games onto it.

Of course, now I’ve got a decent set of character tools, I’m probably going to have to do a Roguelike…

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March 21st, 2017 by Matneee

For those of you who don’t know, a Micro:bit is a tiny computer. They’re about 4cm
by 5 cm and have Things on them which you can program to do Stuff. I realise this level of technical jargon may be off-putting for some, but that’s the gist of it and we’ll break things down a little as we go. They look like this, and they’re frankly brilliant.

 

So, as mentioned, it’s got Things on it.

THINGS

  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • 25 LEDs in a 5 x 5 grid
  • 2 input buttons
  • Bluetooth LE
  • A ring / edge connector to provide input and output, and also to provide a power output.

Also as mentioned, you can program them using a variety of different languages. There’s the fantastically newbie friendly JavaScript Blocks editor that lets you drag pre-made blocks that snap together to make code, which also generates the same program in JavaScript if you’d like to look at it, or if you prefer more traditional coding you could use Python. There are other options available here.

STUFF

That’s where you come in really. Basically you’re limited by your imagination and what you can find to hook up to it’s edge connector. You can control things with it, take readings with it, transmit messages and signals with it. All kinds of stuff, and I’ll talk about some Stuff I try later on.

 

As a final word I think it’s important to note that the Micro:bit isn’t the same as a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pis of this world are more powerful, but they were designed to provide a cheap general-purpose computer for people to learn with and as such they’re a lot more like desktop PCs when you start using them. The Micro:bit is more specifically geared at providing a simple, pick up and go device for kids starting at around 11 years old, and it’s got a lot of great stuff in place to support their learning. But I really can’t stress enough how simple it is to get one, put some code together using the Block Editor in your web browser, then transfer that code to the Micro:bit to get it doing Stuff. We’re talking minutes from taking it out of the box here. Basically it’s borderline Sorcery.

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