BarcampBrighton3, University of Sussex, Day 1

Okay, I had too much fun at out party for dConstruct last night – well too much whisky anyways!

I’ve must say that the vegan food at the dconstruct party at Audio last night was fantastical (a big well done to Oli from Juniper Catering) especially the wonderful macadamia brownies – nom nom nom!

Well we made it to BarcampBrighton3 for the opening speeches, but missed our introduction by about a minute due to looking for the repository for bags – eeep!

If you’re unfamiliar with Barcamp events, they run as an ‘unconference’ and it is hoped that everyone who attends will participate by giving a 30 minute session on something they’re into. Attendees add their sessions to an open schedule grid, usually reflected as half hour slots aligned across a number of small rooms or presentation areas. They usually run over two days with a sleepover incorporating games, hacking, socializing and lots of fun!

Despite scandalous accusations that I tried to scupper our talk by distracting everyone with a fire alarm and especially Ms Emma Persky with some fit firemen, I’m pleased to report that Ian, Ant and myself survived ‘Ask the BBC anything…’ open discussion – yay – woo and hoopla 😉

There were varied questions asked of your intrepid panel, such as why Radio Pop wasn’t working so well for someone, BBC Blogs and should staff members have their own blogs aggregated publicly for everyone to read, iplayer and copyright, and what BBC Backstage gets up to.


Ant Miller, BBC – BBC Micro for the 21st Century

Should we do this again?
Should we WHAT again?
What did we do?

What is the BBC micro? it wasn’t a BBC machine, it wasn’t for kids, it wasn’t for schools…
Ant showed a clip from a Horizon film from the 70s on the silicon chip and how computers of the future will affect everyone’s lives – ‘the micro-electronics revolution’ – with John Radcliff talking.
About now is about the 25th anniversary of the BBC Micro…

The back story – at the time of the Micro’s development…
• Strong confident BBC
• Strong influencing engineering division
• Strong educational depts.
• CEAC – BBC advisory forum
• Pressure from enthusiasts & academics
• DOL and MSC concerns
• The Project conceived around 1979

Although the BBC Micro was quite expensive compared to the Spectrum and the Commodore 64, 1.5 million Micros were sold and also 400,000 books.

ARM (advanced risk machines) sprang out of Acorn – there are billions of Arm chips – they’re in all sorts of things from mobile phones to handheld games consoles, Tom Toms and more. Ant showed us some examples of courses and students studying and playing with combinations of platforms.

How do we get people to become interested in the fundamentals of computing and hardware rather than just accepting the consumer goods? Apparently CompSci course applications are going down – how can we encourage the young of today to have the same fascination for computing and fiddling under the hood as we had when we were young?

For example Sparkfun sell all sorts of fun and cool stuff to add to your Arduino, plus the differences between microprocessors and microcontrollers allows for all sorts of development. Also Rapid Prototyping is fun.

There followed a lively debate on how do we get people interested in coding, electronics and tinkering, and do we actually need to learn all this stuff now? The views of the room were interestingly divided. The OLPC was discussed as an example of the West perhaps patronising the Third World by saying they should use our computers – when they could probably do with other items first, such as shoes. The rights and wrongs of the West’s meddling reflect culturally interesting issues.

It was also mooted that the UK is becoming a services nation rather than building products for its consumers – if so is this a threat to anyone? Maybe the threat is about the possibility of being locked into other people’s (country’s, culture’s, company’s) systems – examples given included the iphone being locked down, planes having a switch that can blow it up to stop them being used as flying missiles in the case of hijack (really? *boggle*!). Also, how we can and should handle vast amounts of data if we don’t own, understand or have access to the systems that control it?


Right, some hours have passed and a free bar, thanks lovely Osmosoft guys, has been open for some time. I had a lovely vegan balti, cheers to our wonderful chef who has been here all day and worked his arse off for us.

I’ve watched a game of War on Terror as well as Semantopoly and got killed by the cheeky bugger I suspected in Werewolf.

I’ve met some lovely people today, everyone is ever so friendly and it’s lovely to hear the stories of new Barcamp peeps who’ve pushed themselves to come along alobe and are now having a whale of a time – it’s making me all misty eyed – aww *sniff* 😀