Guest blog post from Alison Hess, research assistant on our new BBC Micro Project. Learn more about the research and how you can contribute below
Last week, a new computer was launched, and within seconds, not only sold out, but also crashed the website! The Raspberry Pi is a British designed device, roughly the size of a credit card and costing a miniscule £22. It has been designed to inspire a new generation of schoolchildren to learn about programming. As their website explains, the idea for this grew out of concern about, “the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year.”
While this modest device could be set to revolutionise the way computing is taught in schools today, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is not the first organisation to want to improve our computer literacy. The 1980s marked a boom in personal computers, and many people became concerned that the UK would fall behind. The BBC Computer Literacy Project was launched on the 11th of January 1982, with the transmission of the television series ‘The Computer Programme’. At the same time, Acorn released a BBC licensed microcomputer, called the BBC micro.
By 1985 it had been adopted in 80% of UK schools, and along with a range of BBC educational software, was teaching a generation of children about the creative possibilities of computer programming. Today, this generation of programmers has grown up to populate a thriving computer industry in the UK. Places such as ‘Silicon Fen’ in Cambridge, and ‘Techcity’ in East London are known internationally as dynamic and innovative technology hubs.
In a new piece of research sponsored by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), the Science Museum is investigating the legacy of the BBC Computer Literacy Project, and the BBC micro. To do this we need your help!
Do you have experience of working in the computer and creative industries? Have you set up your own software, design or games company? We’d love to hear about your experiences: Please take our survey and contribute to our research.