This isn’t the first time the BBC has had problems shipping an educational device. Back in 1981 the BBC planned to release the Micro – which the micro:bit and its spirit of encouraging coding is supposed to be emulating. But production problems pushed the delivery date of the initial run back to 1982.
The delay comes as a blow to the BBC’s ‘Make It Digital’ campaign, which was centred on the micro:bit. However, a season of programmes on its TV channels will still go ahead, as will traineeships for 5000 young unemployed people and other educational activities and events.
The design of the micro:bit has been a torturous process: Partners ARM and Microsoft declared the original ‘Blue Board’ design was ugly and unfit for purpose, meaning the initial summer shipment dates were pushed back to October as the device went through a redesign.
It’s this redesign that appears to be the cause of the further delays; the power supply was changed from a coin-shaped battery to an external AA battery pack just before manufacturing was due to begin. You have to wonder why the decision to change the power supply was taken so late in the project. It brings to mind the ‘bad old days’, where power was regularly the last thing to be thought about in a design.
This is not to say the micro:bit is not an important tool and has failed; it simply highlights the difficulty of going from design through to shipping of a brand new product in the space of six months to coincide with a multi-platform media campaign.
Ultimately, the real losers are the teachers, who had to devise lesson plans around the micro:bit, and the children who will now only receive limited value from it.