bitio - A Micro:bit IO device
What is this?
bitio (pronounced bitty-o) is a micro:bit I/O library for Python. It allows you to run code in Python on a PC/Mac/Linux/Raspberry Pi and interact directly with the micro:bit. It works with both Python 2 and with Python 3 on Mac, PC, Raspberry Pi and Linux.
Where is the latest version?
The bitio library was written in part to support a new chapter to the highly successful childrens coding book 'Adventures in Minecraft'.
You can get the official version of the library that supports the book from here:
If you want something a bit more leading edge with some experimental new features, go right to the author's website and get the latest code from here:
What can I do with it?
This package is useful if you want to use the micro:bit as an input or an output device for other programs, e.g. for Minecraft. Tilt your micro:bit, and something happens in the Minecraft world. It can be used for anything though, where you want to use the input and output devices on the micro:bit inside a Python program on a bigger computer.
Show me some projects!
News Flash! EduBlocks now has support for bitio!!
Josh from EduBlocks added bitio support, after we met at PyconUK 2017.
Mr NCSComputing (Chris Penn) has written up a lot of projects using bitio and minecraft together:
Sean M. Tracey has written a NodeRed wrapper for it:
Giles Booth has built an internet controlled Radio with it:
Dr Simon Monk wrote about BitIO in his new MicroPython book:
And of course, David Whale added a chapter to the book Adventures in Minecraft all about micro:bit and it uses bitio:
There are a number of ways you could get bitio installed, however this route is designed to be mostly 'install free', specifically to make it easy for schools to use the package where there is a mostly locked-down Python environment.
Press CLONE OR DOWNLOAD
choose DOWNLOAD ZIP
Unzip the zip file
Flash the bitio.hex file onto your micro:bit by dragging and dropping it onto the MICROBIT drive that appears when you plug in your micro:bit. The bitio logo will appear on the display to show you that it has loaded correctly.
The best way to use the package in a restricted school environment is to then just copy the 'microbit' folder into the students home folder. Any Python programs that they write and store in their home folder will now automatically find the 'microbit' package when they 'import microbit' from any of their Python programs.
If you are on Windows, you first need to install the mbed serial driver first before you can use the serial port on your micro:bit. You don't need to do this on Mac/Pi/Linux as they have a compatible driver already built into the OS. Note that you need admin access to your PC and the micro:bit must be plugged in when you install the driver for it to work (but it says that on the web page linked below)
For windows, follow these instructions:
Making a connection
Run (in Python 2 or Python 3, both are supported) the counter.py example that is in the src folder.
You could run this from the command prompt if you know how. But it is also just as easy to open counter.py from within the IDLE editor and run it, and it should work fine.
Follow the on screen instructions which will walk you through unplugging and plugging back in the micro:bit, as a way to detect which serial port it is connected to on your computer.
connecting... warning:Could not open the serial port that was remembered from last time Scanning for serial ports remove micro:bit, then press ENTER scanning... found 132 micro:bit(s) plug in micro:bit, then press ENTER scanning... found 133 micro:bit(s) found 1 new micro:bit selected:/dev/tty.usbmodem1422 Do you want this micro:bit to be remembered? (Y/N)y Your micro:bit has been detected Now running your program
Finally, you should get a counter counting from 00 to 99 in the WhaleySans font (2x5 sized digits) on the display.
There are no official docs yet, but here is a short quick-reference to get you started. Note I have added a microbit.sleep(2000) at the end of some examples, because once your Python program finishes the bitio icon will be displayed on the micro:bit again and this will overwrite whatever is on the micro:bit screen.
Connecting to the micro:bit
NOTE: Make sure bitio.hex is installed import microbit
Scrolling text on the screen
import microbit microbit.display.scroll("Hello") microbit.sleep(2000)
Displaying a single character
import microbit microbit.display.show("A") microbit.sleep(2000)
import microbit microbit.display.scroll(2345) microbit.sleep(2000)
Displaying numbers using a 2-digit font
import microbit for n in range(99): microbit.display.show(n) microbit.sleep(250)
Getting a list of pre-defined images
import microbit print(microbit.Image.STD_IMAGE_NAMES) microbit.sleep(2000)
Displaying a pre-defined image
import microbit microbit.display.show(microbit.Image.HAPPY) microbit.sleep(2000)
Spinning a clock
import microbit for c in microbit.Image.ALL_CLOCKS: microbit.display.show(c) microbit.sleep(250)
Defining a custom image
import microbit BANANA = microbit.Image("00090:00090:00990:09900:99000") microbit.display.show(BANANA) microbit.sleep(2000)
Clearing the display
import microbit microbit.display.clear() microbit.sleep(2000)
Sensing when a button is pressed
import microbit while True: if microbit.button_a.was_pressed(): microbit.display.show("A") microbit.sleep(500) microbit.display.clear()
Sensing when a pin is touched
import microbit while True: if microbit.pin0.is_touched(): microbit.display.show("T") microbit.sleep(500) microbit.display.clear()
Reading accelerometer values
import microbit while True: print(microbit.accelerometer.get_values()) microbit.sleep(250)
Sensing tilt in the X plane
import microbit while True: x = microbit.accelerometer.get_x() x = abs(x) if x > 200: print("Tilted") else: print("Not Tilted") microbit.sleep(500)
Reading the temperature
import microbit while True: print(microbit.temperature()) microbit.sleep(500)
These items are currently not implemented in this release, but will be added soon.
pin[3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20] digital_read() digital_write() analog_read() analog_write() set_pull()
display get_pixel(x, y) set_pixel(x, y, value) on() off() is_on()
Here are a few sample programs you can use to get started
button.py - sense a button press counter.py - count from 00 to 99 sensing.py - sense buttons and accelerometer values touched.py - sense pin touch std_image.py - use in-built standard images custom_image.py - define your own custom images tilt.py - show how to sense tilt movements tilt_mc.py - use the tilt with Minecraft clocks.py - show a spinning clock arrows.py - show a spinning arrow
Not all of the features of the micro:bit are made available via this API yet, but we're working on it!
The bitio code that runs at the micro:bit end is MicroPython. The version of MicroPython cached inside this project is from here:
Historical Perspective and timeline
On 9th May 2014 I published a package called 'anyio'. This was as a result of developing a coding book called Adventures in Minecraft, and the desire to add some hardware chapters. At the time, there wasn't a credible off the shelf GPIO like platform that worked out of the box, for PC/Mac/Linux. So I created something a bit like RPi.GPIO but called it anyio, so that it was possible to write Adventure 5, 9 and 10 of the book with minimal changes between all platforms. Some work was done by SKPangUK as a local distributor, who 'finishes off' the board by soldering headers and pre-loading the anyio firmware, as well as selling a bundled package with everything you need to follow the book.
Another key innovation inside anyio is the portscan package that I wrote. This works on PC/Mac/Linux/Raspberry Pi and walks the user through a workflow of removing and inserting the USB cable as a simple method to self-identify the port. This was key to reducing the size of the setup instructions inside the 'Adventures in Minecraft' book, as it makes the workflow identical on all 4 platforms. I have since used this workflow and package in lots of my other example micro:bit programs inside my github code repository.
On 28th Jan 2016, I wrote a proof-of-concept in a project called 'mb_remote', which is here:
This was built using an older version of MicroPython, and the API has changed since. I spoke to a number of people that attended PyCon UK that year, and raised some interest.
This spawned similar work, e.g. this from Joe Glancy and Andrew Mulholland published on 9th May 2016 here:
Much as I like this work, I never agreed with the name. The main reason is that I wanted it to be possible to take an unmodified program written for the micro:bit, run it on a PC/Mac/Linux/Raspberry Pi machine, and for it to work unmodified. Hence the module name needs to be called 'microbit'.
Also, you will note that microperi requires manual connection to the micro:bit, whereas bitio automatically connects when you import the module.
There are many places where I have used this, but the most recent is a 'micro:bit radio gateway' project here:
In May 2016, I had discussions with Ryan Walmsley from Ryantek, and he wanted to build a board a bit like my anyio board but with Raspberry Pi HAT headers on it, and he asked for permissions to use my anyio library as a basis, which I agreed to. Ryan ran a successful kickstarter and ended up building a retail packaged board with support for I2C, SPI, and many of the boards in the huge Raspberry Pi HAT eco-system.
Roll forward to 2017, and discussions start to take place between myself and my co-author Martin O'Hanlon about developing a 2nd edition of our highly successful childrens coding book 'Adventures in Minecraft'. I had this idea that now that the micro:bit is widely deployed and you can walk into real shops and buy them off of the shelf, it would be a much easier to obtain platform than the Arduino/anyio board, and also provide progression in both directions between Python on the micro:bit and Python on larger platforms.
Note a very influential (private) discussion with Nicholas Tollervy of the Python Software Foundation, where he states that 'using Raw REPL would be a more robust protocol for driving this sort of interface'. bitio uses the Raw REPL extensively.
So, bitio is a step towards using the micro:bit as a general purpose IO device for bigger computers like PC/Mac/Linux. You can of course also use it on the Raspberry Pi in addition or instead of RPi.GPIO, but you get some lovely on-board sensors and a display built-in with the micro:bit.
What is next?
I have a big todo list (look in the docs folder).
One key thing I want to do is to pull all my various micro:bit comms projects into this single package, including bringing in the microbit-gateway project for linking via the micro:bit radio network, amongst other features.
I think this work will also add a radio configuration feature with assistance at the micro:bit end, so that it is possible to build multi channel frequency hopping gateways. That is a bit of a long term plan at the moment though.
I also have a microbit.GPIO idea in the making, where it could be used a bit like RPi.GPIO and form part of my anyio package as another supported platform.
1st July 2017