How to Start Having Fun with a Raspberry Pi Microcomputer

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The Raspberry Pi is a microcomputer created by the Raspberry Pi Foundation — an educational charity organization based in the UK. The Raspberry Pi is sold for production cost only, around $35 USD. Since 2012 more than 5 million units were sold worldwide.

Why is the Raspberry Pi Awesome?

I love the idea of the Raspberry Pi. I familiarized myself with computing and computer programming at a time when personal computers (PCs) were not everyday appliances found in all households. This was almost 30 years ago. I had a lot of fun learning about computing with a hands-on approach.

The Raspberry Pi is a modern-day replacement of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore, AMIGA, or Atari — the simple computers of a long gone decade that back then inspired so many young computer enthusiasts. The Raspberry Pi enables today’s children to be amazed by the possibilities of computing much the same way my generation used to be amazed so many years ago.

But unlike those early simple computers of the 1980s, the Raspberry Pi is actually a very powerful microcomputer.

You can do a wide range of amazing things with it, such as:

The possibilities are limitless. You can get more inspiration in the free MagPi magazine.

What Do You Need

To start having fun with a Raspberry Pi, you will need some software and some hardware. The software is free and the hardware is very cheap and readily available.

Software

  • The most current Raspbian operating system (OS).
  • The free 7-Zip software.
  • The free Win32 Disk Imager software.

Hardware

  • A Raspberry Pi.
  • A micro-USB power supply that can handle an electric current of 2000 mA or more.
  • A class 10 micro-SDHC card, optimally a 16GB one.
  • An HDMI cable to connect the Raspberry Pi to your TV or computer monitor.
  • A USB keyboard and mouse, optimally with low power consumption.
  • A USB wifi dongle. It was smooth sailing for me with a Tenda W311MI model.

Preparatory Steps

1. Insert the micro-SDHC card into your computer. To be on the safe side, you can format the card using SD Card Formatter. To be honest, I skipped this step without any problems.

2. Download the latest Raspbian OS zipped image file.

3. Unpack the image file from its zip container using 7-Zip or a similar software tool.

extracting-zipped-raspbian-image-file

Unpack Raspbian image file

4. Download and install the Win32 Disk Imager software.

5. Run the Win32 Disk Imager. You need to right-click on its icon and select Run as administrator.

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Win32 Disk Imager

6. Within Win32 Disk Imager’s window, select the location of the unpacked Raspbian OS image file.

Then select the drive letter of the micro-SDHC card.

And, finally, press the Write button to start writing the OS to the micro-SDHC card.

confirm-overwrite

Confirm overwrite

7. Confirm the pop-up question by clicking Yes.

8. The writing process will take up to 4-5 minutes — from an SSD drive to a class 10 micro-SDHC card.

Starting up the Raspberry Pi

Before starting up your Raspberry Pi, make sure that everything is connected correctly:

  • Insert the micro-SDHC card to its slot.
  • Connect the HDMI cable to both the Raspberry Pi and the TV (or computer monitor).
  • Connect the USB keyboard and mouse.
  • Connect the USB wifi dongle.

After double-checking that everything is OK, connect the micro-USB power supply to the Raspberry Pi and then to the power outlet.

The Raspberry Pi will now boot up for the first time.

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My Raspberry Pi setup

From the menu window, select 1 Expand Filesystem and press Enter.

raspbian-install-menu

Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool

When the process finishes, Raspbian will ask you Would you like to reboot now?, select Yes and press Enter.

After the reboot, you have to enter the default username and password, which are pi and raspberry.

After this, you may enter the graphical user interface (GUI) by typing and entering startx.

raspbian-gui

Raspbian GUI

Here you have a lot of programming tools, games, and other software readily available — including an internet browser.

Although, to connect to the internet you will probably need to do some extra steps. I will create a step-by-step post about this topic very soon.

The Competition

Obviously, there are also other microcomputers available on the market. Usually, they are more expensive since they are created as for-profit products whereas the Raspberry Pi is primarily a learning tool for kids.

However, there are some really interesting and low-cost projects being developed, too.

Here is a list of the most well-known competitors to the Raspberry Pi:

Have fun microcomputing!

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