George began his project to build a Python interpreter for microcontrollers in 2013. "I started writing MicroPython to see if it's possible," he says. "Could I shrink Python down small enough to run on these tiny chips?" From scratch, he made a Python compiler so skinny it could squeeze into 128 kilobytes of RAM, and then wrote the runtime and built-in functions. "After about 6 months I realized it was possible, and I had a proof of concept."
|Damien George, PSF Community Service Award recipient|
George launched the MicroPython campaign on Kickstarter at the end of 2013, and raised nearly £100,000. With the support of donors and the efforts of volunteers, he released MicroPython along with a small computer, the PyBoard, which packs a processor, RAM, LEDs, and an accelerometer into a package less than two inches square.
|The MicroPython PyBoard|
By chance, in a discussion over tea with an engineer from ARM, Tollervey realized MicroPython might work on the micro:bit. He sent a prototype of the board to George with a note stuck to it: "I want this back, Damien," and a smiley face. Within a week of getting the prototype, George had MicroPython running on it. Tollervey says, "When we had that I knew we were on to a goer." He did eventually get his board back.
The Python Software Foundation awarded Damien George a Community Service Award in 2016. In addition to his extensive volunteer work on the BBC micro:bit and MicroPython, George spent time answering questions, helping users, and reviewing code from the wider MicroPython and micro:bit communities. Tollervey adds, "He's a very good mentor, and just a genuinely nice chap."
Now that the micro:bit is launched, MicroPython is gaining a far wider audience. Last Tuesday the BBC began delivering micro:bits to a million school children. George says, "It's a relief that it's finally out there, and very exciting to see this new era of kids using Python on these little devices."
|The BBC micro:bit|