Last updated: September 30, 2020
Raspberry Pi: How To Get Started Today
Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more
Computers have come a long way since the mid-20th century, when they took up entire rooms and only programming geniuses could use them. In just the past few decades, computers have evolved so that we can carry them around with us as laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones.
And today, even smaller computers are available, like the credit-card sized Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi is a tiny but fully-functional computer that can use a normal keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You can use Raspberry Pi to surf the web, create and edit documents and spreadsheets, and even learn to create your own computer programs.
The creators of Raspberry Pi got the idea to create a small, affordable computer device in 2006, when they noticed that the programming abilities of computer science students were on the decline. Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft got together to start the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a registered educational charity in the UK, to fund the project.
Their goal was to create a tiny computer that was safe to learn programming on without worrying about ruining a more expensive device. By experimenting on Raspberry Pi, kids can learn the basics of how computers and programming work.
The Raspberry Pi comes in two different models. The Model A for $25 is a lighter and lower-power version with 256 RAM and USB port, often used in embedded projects like robotics. For $10 more, the more popular Model B comes with double the RAM, an additional USB port, and an Ethernet port.
While Raspberry Pi is easy to use, there are a few more steps involved to setting it up than just hitting a power button like on a PC. You’ll need some additional components like a power cord, monitor, mouse and keyboard, and a primary computer and SD card for the installation software. Just follow the steps below to learn how to download the installation software, how to install the right operating system, and how to get started writing your very first computer program.
Before you know it, you’ll be able to use your new Raspberry Pi to turn an old radio into a computerized internet radio, program your own computer game, or even bring to life your own mobile robot!
How to Get Started
Is It Food?
No, Raspberry Pi is actually a low cost, case-less computer, the size of a credit card. It plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.
What’s It For?
The device was created to be a low-cost computer that would enable kids to play around with computer projects and programming without fear of an expensive mistake.
- Quad USB Ports
- 10/100 BaseT Ethernet Socket
- 40 Pin GPIO Header
- Broadcom BCM 2836 & 512MB RAM
- DSI Display Connector
- Micro SD Card Slot (Underside)
- Micro USB Power Supply
- HDMI Port
- CSI Camera Connector
- Stereo Audio & Composite Video
Raspberry Pi Offers Two Models
Model A: $25
- 256MB RAM
- 1 USB Port
- No Ethernet (network connection)
Model B: $35
- 512MB RAM
- 2 USB ports
- 1 Ethernet port
Model B+: $35
- 512MB RAM
- 4 USB ports
- 1 Ethernet port
Setting Up Your Raspberry Pi
Additional Parts Required
- SD Card: 8GB (or larger)
- Power Supply: Provides 5V (regulated) at 1A)
- HDMI Cable
- HDMI Television or Monitor
- USB Mouse and Keyboard
- Primary Computer: Needed to set up the SD Card
- Internet Connection
- Ethernet Cable: Model B & B+ only
- SD Card Reader
1.1 Download the ZIP file for NOOBS (offline and network install) from http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and select a folder to save it to.
1.2 Extract the files from the ZIP.
Format the SD Card
2.1 Visit the SD Association’s website and download SD Formatter 4.0 for either Windows or Mac.
2.2 Follow the instructions to install the software.
2.3 Insert your SD card into the SD card reader in your computer.
2.4 In SD Formatter, select the drive letter for your SD card and format it.
Drag and Drop Noobs Files
3.1 Drag all the files in the extracted NOOBS folder and drop them onto the SD card drive. The necessary files will be transferred to your SD card.
3.2 When the transfer is finished, remove your SD card and insert it into your Raspberry Pi.
4.1 Plug in your keyboard, mouse, and monitor cables.
4.2 Now plug in the USB power cable to your Pi.
4.3 Your Raspberry Pi will boot, and a window will appear with a list of different operating systems that you can install. Raspbian – a version of Linux’s “Debian” operating system – is recommended, so tick the box next to it and click on Install.
4.4 Raspbian will then begin installing – this can take a while.
4.5 When installation has completed, the Raspberry Pi configuration menu (raspi-config) will load. You can exit this menu by using Tab on your keyboard to move to Finish.
Logging In and Accessing the Graphical User Interface
5.1 Login – the default Username: pi & Password: raspberry
5.2 Type startx to load the graphical user interface.
5.3 Once loaded, the graphical user interface will look like a familiar desktop with the Raspberry Pi logo.
Say “Hello World!”
Now that you’re set up, it’s time to start learning about software development. It’s common to begin with “Hello World!” – this program will ask for your name and introduce itself to you.
6.1 – Open the Utility First, load up IDLE 3 by double-clicking the icon on your LXDE desktop.
6.2 – Open a New Window Then, type the following in your new window:
#my first Python program
username = input(“Hello, I’m Raspberry Pi! What is your name?”)
print (‘Nice to meet you,’ + username + ‘ have a nice day!”)
6.4 – Save Your Work Now click File > Save As and in the new dialogue window that pops up, call your file “hello” and click “Save”.
6.5 – Test Your Program Click Run > Run Module or simply press F5. When prompted by “Hello, I’m Raspberry Pi! What is your name?” in the IDLE 3 window, type your name and press Enter. You’ll see that the Raspberry Pi responds.
Now That You Know the Basics, Why Not Try Your Hand At Some Fun Projects?
- IR Remote for XBMC Media Center bit.ly/1sq6Aeo
- Solar Powered Pi bit.ly/1oLhJ9q
- Web Server bit.ly/1qzeuXn
- Gaming Device/Emulator bit.ly/1jWDanB
- Raspberry Pi Internet Radio bit.ly/1gznDWi
- Weather Station bit.ly/1hwgOF4
More at: Raspberry Pi Resources
- RetroPie-Setup: An initialization script for RetroArch on the Raspberry Pi – blogpetrock.com
- How to Make a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame) – Instructables.com
- Raspberry Pi powered time lapse dolly (RasPiLapse) – Instructables.com
- Solar Powered Raspberry Pi – Instructables.com
- Tutorial: How to Set up a Raspberry Pi Web Server – jeremymorgan.com
- DIY WiFi Raspberry Pi Touchscreen Camera – Learnadafruit.com
- A Beginner’s Guide to DIYing with the Raspberry Pi – LifeHacker.com
- Create a Kickass, Seamless, Play-Everything Media Center: The Complete Guide – LifeHacker.com
- Turn a Raspberry Pi Into an XBMC Media Center in Under 30 Minutes – LifeHacker.com
- Build a Raspberry Pi Robot with Linux – linuxuser.co.uk
- FAQs – raspberrypi.org
- NOOBS Setup – raspberrypi.org
- Quick Start Guide – raspberrypi.org
- What is a Raspberry Pi? – raspberrypi.org
- Building a Raspberry Pi VPN Part One: How And Why To Build a Server – readwrite.com
- Raspberry Pi Internet Radio – usualpanic.com
- New – Connecting the Pi to a weather station – weatherdragontail.co.uk
- My First Raspberry Pi Game – youtube.com