Sunday 14 January 2018

Project 18: History of Computing

Following on from our first home education project Project 1: History of Computer Games, this week we explored the history of computing more broadly. Exploring how technology has changed from the early mechanical adding aids to the modern digital computers that we have access to today. In addition to the usual books and videos we built some logic gates in Minecraft, visited the Centre for Computing History, and created a micro:bot with a BBC micro:bit.

Like many children his age Solomon loves exploring and building things in Minecraft, so it was an ideal environment to show how from valves and transistors we can now build virtual computers in Minecraft using redstone. Obviously such a task is beyond the scope of a one week project for a five year old, but we did build AND and XOR Minecraft logic gates that could be combined to add up two single digit binary numbers.
Logic gates in Minecraft
The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge is similar to the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, but with additional non-games related exhibitions. Unsurprisingly, however, the children preferred the gaming aspects, in particular Solomon enjoyed the range of classic Sonic and Mario console games available. As we went on a week day in term time we had free run of the place for most of the time. The staff were very helpful and there were some good worksheets. It was a great place for a day out, and we will definitely visit again.

Consoles at the Centre for Computing History
Pixel Art Worksheet
Finally we explored the latest generation of hobby computers by building a micro:bot with a BBC micro:bit, which is supposed to be a bit like a hexbug.
BBC micro:bit micro:bot
It was a nice little project, although there were a few difficulties: Maplins didn't have all the pieces we needed, and the code blocks differed slightly between the instructions and the micro:bit web site. Kitronik however will send out components the same day if you order before 3pm, and we managed to work out which blocks we needed.
Final micro:bot code

Next week's project: Science and chemistry

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