Raspberry Pi Introduction and Resources
Whenever you drive your car or place a phone call on your mobile, you are using a device consisting of powerful microprocessors and electronics. Usually, these electronics are devoted to a single application such as processing voice commands on a phone or controlling certain aspects of an engine. If you ever wondered how such electronics worked or wanted to get started on your own projects, then the Raspberry Pi is an excellent starting point. Thousands of hobbyists and enthusiasts have already created some great projects ranging from simple MP3 players to complex 3D printers. Let's take a look at some resources to help you get started!
Back in the early 2000, Eben Upton was frustrated with school children's lack of interest in science and engineering disciplines. So in 2006, he and his colleagues at Cambridge University set out to create an inexpensive computer board that was easy to program. The hope was to create an environment where kids could build simple projects to understand electronics. The result was the Raspberry Pi (RPi). Since then, millions of units have been sold.
RPi units have gone through several updates over the years. The first unit, the Raspberry Pi 1, was introduced in 2012. This line featured several models including A and B which were later updated to A+ and B+. All models currently feature the ARM processor with varying speeds and amounts of RAM. Initially all cards supported SD but now support microSD for storage. The boards differ mainly by the processor speed and RAM along with what hardware is supported. The latest units support 802.11n Wireless and Bluetooth along with HDMI, ethernet, 3D graphics, and audio/video output. Add-ons for the units including 8-megapixel cameras and the Sense HAT featuring multiple sensors including a gyroscope and accelerometer are also available.
When checking out these tutorials, think about changes you can make to enhance the project. Here are some links to websites featuring tutorials for various projects to help you get started:
- Raspberry Pi Foundation Projects: these are simple projects that allow the user to get an initial taste for the environment, write simple programs, and interface with external sensors.
- Instructables Projects: the Instructable website features projects ranging from simple to complex. The projects include code as well as a Bill of Materials of the items needed to complete the project. Detailed installation instructions are also included.
- Makezine Projects: like the Instructable's website, Makezine also features different Raspberry Pi projects varying by difficulty level that include detailed instructions. An added benefit to Makezine's website is that users are able to sort by project duration and difficulty. Some projects also include video to demonstrate setup.
Some tutorials to understand the Raspberry Pi system and setup can be found here:
- Getting Started on Raspberry Pi 2: this tutorial is a step-by-step guide to setting up and using basic I/O on the Raspberry Pi 2. Most of the concepts in this guide can be used for other models.
- Raspberry Pi Sensor: learn how to process temperature sensor data from a RPi
- Python Basics: a simple Python programming example for Raspberry Pi
- Beginner Python and IO Tutorial: this teaches how to use Python to process inputs
Here are some video tutorials that may also be helpful:
- Basic Setup Video: this video tutorial describes the board and tells how to power the unit and install Raspbian OS;
- WIFI and Basic Setup Video: this video shows how to download an OS image and setup WIFI;
- Camera Add-On Tutorial: this video demonstrates camera module setup on the RPi;
- Music Streaming: this tutorial shows how to setup music streaming on a unit step-by-step;
- GPIO Video Tutorial: an advanced tutorial covering the GPIO basics with a simple LED example.
Just like your PC or laptop, Raspberry Pi units need an OS. To get an OS, you need to download an image to the SD card. The following tutorial can help you download an OS image to an SD or micro-SD card:
- Raspberry Pi SD Cards: tutorial describing the basics of SD cards and how to setup images on them.
Most of the OSes installed are based on different Linux distributions similar to Debian and Fedora. When working with Raspberry Pi units, it pays to get comfortable with the Linux command line. Here are a couple of resources that can help:
- Common Linux Commands: This list of commands from the famous "Dummies" series of books features some commonly used Linux commands.
- Linux Command Cheat Sheet: Helpful reference of Linux commands and examples. Great page for a quick reference!
Remember, when working with Linux, all commands are case sensitive. This means that if you wish to execute the "ls" command you cannot enter something like "Ls" or "LS" and expect the same result.
Besides viewing online tutorials and videos, take a look at these books:
- Raspberry Pi: 2 Beginner's Users Manual by Alex Benjamin: provides an overview of the RPi and how to get started.
- Raspberry Pi User Guide by Upton and Halfacree: written for individuals new to the Raspberry Pi environment, this books gives step-by-step instructions for installation, configuration, and customization of a RPi unit.
- Programming the Raspberry Pi, Second Edition: Getting Started with Python by Simon Monk: teaches individuals how to configure Python and create programs for the RPi.
- Adventures in Raspberry Pi by Carrie Ann Philbin: great book of simple electronics projects targeted toward kids.
- Raspberry Pi Cookbook by Simon Monk: like the title, the book lists recipes including code and instructions for various RPi projects such as using the GPIO and reading sensor inputs.
- Raspberry Pi Projects for the Evil Genius by Donald Norris: a book on advanced, yet interesting, projects you can do with the Raspberry Pi.
Whether you want to create some great electronics projects or prototype real-world designs, the Raspberry Pi units are a low-cost, yet effective investment of time and money. Get one today and start building some awesome projects!
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to coding and hardward:
- NXT-G Programming Resources: learn all about the language for creating robots with LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. That's right: Lego robots!
- Verilog Programming Introduction and Resources: if you want to take a step down, Verilog allows you to design computer chips.
- Linux Programming Introduction and Resources: as the primary operating system of the Raspberry Pi, Linux should be very interesting. This resource looks at programming at the hardware level.
- Perl Guide and Resources: Perl is a popular language for Raspberry Pi coding. This article will get you started with it.
Raspberry Pi: How to Get Started
Want to get up to speed fast on the Raspberry Pi? Check out our infographic, Raspberry Pi: How to Get Started It shows you all the parts of the hardware and runs you through your first program.