The Beginner's Guide to the Raspberry Pi
| Wayne Chen
You've probably seen raspberry pie on your Internet travels, but what exactly is this compact circuit?What can you do with it?Why do you want to do this?If you're not familiar with PI, let's explain everything you need to know.
What is the Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi is a mini-computer, like the one inside the your laptop but with a lot less power. What it lacks in oomph it makes up for in its “tinker-ability”—with just a little know-how you can use the Pi as the basis for all kinds of computing and electronics projects. It essentially gives you the raw basics of a computer.
Those basics include a processor, a graphics chip, some RAM, a few USB ports, an HDMI output, an Ethernet port, and (in the latest version) integrated wifi and Bluetooth. As you would expect for the Pi’s paltry price, you can’t run very advanced software on it, though you can install Linux and a stripped-down Internet-of-Things version of Windows 10.
What can I do with one?
You can use the Raspberry Pi to do pretty much anything a low-powered computer can: watch a movie, write a document, play basic games, and so on—it’s really up to you. It can also function as a device without standard inputs and outputs, so you can use a Pi as the basis of a wildlife cam for your garden or to start up your car with a spare Amazon Echo.
As your technical prowess grows, the Pi is able to grow with you—it can be used as the basis of projects that are more and more advanced if you want to get serious about your DIY computing. The GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) pins on the board let you hook up LED lights, motors, sensors, buttons and a host of other electronics quite easily.
That’s part of the appeal of the Raspberry Pi: you can simply use it as a lightweight computer or media streamer, or do something more complex with it, if you’re prepared to learn a bit of code and a few electronics basics. As each Pi model has upgraded the specs of the device, so the number of different projects you can attempt with it has increased.
How do I get started?
Buying yourself a Raspberry Pi is a solid start. You can also pick up a bunch of optional accessories too, from a case to a touchscreen to a camera, and if you’re a complete beginner then you might want to stock up on extra kit that you know is going to be compatible (and work straight out of the box) without the need for much extra tinkering.
Your Pi won’t actually do anything on its own. You need a way of inputting instructions and a way of seeing what you’re doing, so usually that means a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You also need a to power up the Pi somehow, and again, the simplest option is buying an official USB power adapter (which will look a lot like the one for your phone).
While we haven’t gone into a great deal of depth here, we’ve hopefully answered some of the most basic questions about what a Pi is and what it can do.