This post is an introduction to the Raspberry Pi. You’ll see what is the Raspberry Pi and what can you use it for. You’ll explore its features and see what sets it apart from a normal computer. Finally, we’ll also show you how to get started by installing the operating system, and what accessories do you need.
“The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools.” From Wikipedia.
The Raspberry Pi costs around $35 is hackable and small. It’s the perfect solution for tinkerers! In some way, you can look at the Raspberry Pi as a normal computer, it has a processor, RAM, USB ports to plug a keyboard and a mouse, HDMI port to plug a TV or monitor, and you can even connect it to the internet.
You can do most things you do with a regular computer like web browsing, document editing, playing games, coding and much more. The figure below shows the Raspberry Pi 3 set as a desktop computer.
The Raspberry Pi board has one special feature that normal computers don’t: General Purpose Input Output (GPIOs) Pins. These GPIOs let you to interact with the real world allowing you to build great electronics projects.
Applications for Your Raspberry Pi
There are no limits to what you can do with your Raspberry Pi. But here’s some ideas:
- Create your own programs
- Create your own electronics projects
- Build a retro gaming console
- Use your Pi as a desktop computer
- Build a home automation system
- Make your own CCTV system
- Create your own web server
- and much more.
You can also read our dedicated post to Raspberry Pi uses: 11 Clever Uses for Your Raspberry Pi
Different Raspberry Pi Boards
There are different releases of the Raspberry Pi board:
- February 2012: Raspberry Pi 1 Model B (Rev. 1)
- April 2012: Raspberry Pi 1 Model B (Rev. 2)
- February 2013: Raspberry Pi 1 Model A
- July 2014: Raspberry Pi 1 Model B+
- November 2014: Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+
- February 2015: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B
- November 2015: Raspberry Pi Zero
- February 2016: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
- February 2017: Raspberry Pi Zero W
- March 2018: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+
If you don’t have a Raspberry Pi yet, we recommend getting a Raspberry Pi 3 model B, or a Raspberry Pi Zero W, depending on what you intend to do. The table below compares these two boards:
|Feature||Pi 3 Model B||Pi Zero W|
|Processor||1.2GHz quad‑core ARMv8||1GHz, single-core CPU|
|USB Ports||4||USB On-The-Go ports|
|HDMI||Full size HDMI||Mini HDMI|
|Wi-Fi||BCM43438 wireless LAN||802.11 b/g/n wireless LAN|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) on board||Bluetooth 4.1/Bluetooth Low Energy|
|Check prices||Check prices|
Exploring the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Board
The figure below shows the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B annotated.
Here’s a glance of what each component of the Raspberry Pi does:
- USB ports: to connect a mouse, a keyboard or other peripherals;
- Ethernet port: to connect to the internet using an Ethernet cable;
- Audio jack: to connect an audio device
- CSI connector: to connect a camera with a CSI ribbon
- HDMI connector: to connect a monitor or TV
- Processor: is the brain of the Raspberry Pi
- MicroSD card slot: to insert a microSD card to store your files and your operating system
- MicroUSB power input: to power up your Pi
- DSI connector: to connect DSI compatible displays
- Antenna: picks up wireless LAN and bluetooth signals
- GPIOs (general purpose input output pins): connect devices to interact with the outside world like sensors and outputs like LEDs and motors.
Accessories You Need To Get Started
When you buy a Raspberry Pi board, you only get a bare electronic board that doesn’t do much on its own. You need several accessories to get started.
There are a lot of accessories for the Raspberry Pi, but you need at least a microSD card and a power supply. Without these accessories your Raspberry Pi is useless.
- Power supply: you need a power adapter that provides 2.5A 5V
- MicroSD card: you need at least one with 8GB, class 10. You need a microSD card to store your files and the Pi’s operating system. The Pi doesn’t have an hard drive, so everything you do on your Pi is saved on the microSD card, even the operating system. You can get a microSD card with the operating system preloaded or install the operating system yourself.
There are also useful accessories you may consider get like an HDMI cable to connect a monitor, and a Raspberry Pi case to protect your board. A spare mouse and keyboard can also be useful to set your Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer.
Getting a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
If this is your first time around the Raspberry Pi, you may consider getting a Raspberry Pi starter kit that comes with the essential accessories to get started. You can read our post about the Best Raspberry Pi 3 Starter Kits to find out the best kit for you.
Installing the Operating System
There are several operating systems suitable for the Pi. The official distribution for the Raspberry Pi is Raspbian. That’s the one we recommend you to install. Especially if you’re a beginner, because it is the most supported.
Downloading the Operating System
Go to raspberrypi.org.com/downloads and select the Raspbian distribution.
Download the .zip file for the Raspbian Strech with Desktop.
This will take some time downloading.
Writing the Operating System Image to the SD Card
To write the operating system image to the SD card, follow the next steps:
1. Download Etcher – select the right one for your operating system. Then, install it.
2. Connect the SD card to your computer and check the drive letter it was assigned.
3. Open Etcher and select from your hard drive the Raspberry Pi .zip file you wish to write to the SD card – it is the one you’ve just downloaded previously.
4. Select the SD card you wish to write your image to.
5. Make sure you’ve selected everything right, and click ‘Flash!’ to begin writing data to the SD card.
Once you have the operating system installed on the SD card, you just need to insert it into the SD card slot of your Pi, and power it up.
Raspberry Pi GPIOs Pinout
The following figure shows the Raspberry Pi 3 GPIOs pinout that you can use for a future reference.
This pinout is the same for Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, Raspberry Pi 1 Model A+, Raspberry Pi Model B+, Raspberry Pi Zero, and Raspberry Pi Zero W.
Raspberry Pi 1 Model A and the Raspberry Pi 1 Model B Rev.2 only have the first 26 pins.
We hope you’ve found this getting started guide useful. If you don’t have a Raspberry Pi yet, you’re missing out some cool projects. So, check the best Raspberry Pi kit for you here.
You may also like some of our most popular Raspberry Pi projects:
- Build a Home Automation System
- CCTV Raspberry Pi Based System with Storage using MotionEyeOS
- Email Alert System on Location Change with Raspberry Pi and GPS Module
- Node-RED with Raspberry Pi Camera (Take Photos)
- Video Streaming with Raspberry Pi Camera
Thanks for reading.