A nine-year old student successfully wrote a program to calculate a centuries-old mathematical sequence in a matter of seconds on the BBC micro:bit, beating out eight decades of advanced computer technology with simple modern coding skills.

The Grand Digital Computer Race challenged seven computers and one calculator to find as many numbers in the Fibonacci sequence as possible within fifteen seconds. Used in mathematics for centuries, the Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two numbers that preceded it.

Using a BBC micro:bit, nine year-old coding student Connie, of Christ The Sower Ecumenical Primary School in Milton Keynes, wrote a program which found 6843 numbers in the allotted time.

The devices represented the evolution of computer technology over the past century, with other devices including an iPhone 6s, a calculator and the 1951 Harwell Dekatron/Witch - the world's oldest working digital computer. The iPhone managed to find just four numbers in the allotted time, using Siri voice command and response. The Harwell Dekatron found only three - the slowest performance in the group.

Other devices included a 1940s Facit calculator, a 1965 PDP-8, a 1977 Apple II, a 1981 BBC Micro and a 1998 Windows 98. The event was held at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, and run primarily by volunteers who had personally restored the older devices to allow them to enter the race, which was the first of its kind to feature devices from such a broad span of time.

Museum trustee and race starter Kevin Murrell predicted that the event would be the first of many to feature restored computers from history. "We have many other original working computers that could enter the race to demonstrate the advance of computing" he said. "Our youngest competitor wrote the program herself with a BBC micro:bit - a fantastic achievement and an inspiration for young computer scientists everywhere.

The full results of the 2018 Grand Digital Race:

  • BBC micro:bit (6843 numbers calculated in 15 seconds)
  • Windows 98 (1477)
  • 1981 BBC Micro (70)
  • 1977 Apple II (38)
  • 1965 PDP-8 (16)
  • Facit Caculator (7)
  • iPhone 6s (4)
  • 1951 Harwell Dekatron/Witch (3)