16th June 2015

How to get started with a Raspberry Pi

Picking a board

Getting started with a Raspberry Pi is one of the least complicated things you can do and a great introduction computing.

7136hDWcXFL._SL1200_You can walk into PCWorld and buy a Raspberry Pi off the shelf for less than £13

That’s the price for a Model A+ board which is a great board to get started with. It’s got a USB port which means it’s expandable but with only one port you have to make decisions about how you use it. You’ll need to buy a USB hub to plug in more than one device.

 

 

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PCWorld don’t seem to stock the Model B+ board but you can pick them up on Amazon for  a little over £20. This is a great board, in fact I have one myself.

If you’re looking to walk into a shop though, PCWorld will sell you the Model 2 B version for around £30.

Both of the B boards are really expandable as they come with 4 USB ports and a network port. The decision is yours to make and I’m only comparing them on price here, but once you’ve picked a board you’re on your way.

Over the first hurdle.

Now you’ve got the hard part out of the way and chosen your Pi, it’s time to talk about all the other things you’ll need.

These boards don’t work unless you’ve got power. (Extra points for spotting where I paraphrased that nugget). Thankfully the Raspberry Pi only draws as much juice as your mobile phone does when it’s on charge. In fact, it uses the same power connector too. Check to see if you’ve got a spare charger lying around the house before you go to the shop.

As you’ll see all of the boards have an HDMI socket, meaning you can plug the board into your swanky HDTV and use that instead of having to buy a computer monitor. Assuming of course, you’ve picked up an HDMI cable while you were out buying your board.

That deals with getting pictures out of the board but to get your commands into the board, you’re going to need a keyboard and probably a mouse too. Both of which I can walk into Tesco/Asda/Sainsbury’s and buy without having to make a special trip to a tech friendly shop. Hunt around, any old USB keyboard and mouse will do.

With one exception, these are the minimum components you’ll need to get started with your Pi.

That exception is memory.

Memories are made of this

The Raspberry Pi is a great little computer but it doesn’t contain any internal storage or memory. You will need to supply that storage as the final component in your basic set-up.
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Thankfully, the Raspberry Pi now uses another component found in mobile phones. The MicroSD Card.

While you may have one of these lying around the house, from an old mobile phone I would always recommend buying a new card.

Firstly because a new card is likely to last longer than a used one but secondly because you can buy these card with all the software you need to run the Raspberry Pi already installed on it.

I’ve spotted these memory cards on eBay for £6, which come with the Raspberry Pi operating system pre-installed on it. Pick one of these up and you’ll find the time from unpacking things from the box, connecting it all up, turning it on and having a working computer will be less than 5 minutes.

This card is where you’ll also store the things you do with the Pi (your files), so the bigger the card the better. Files can always be stored in other places but lets not run before we can walk.

Summary

You don’t need a lot to get started with a Raspberry Pi, just this short shopping list of items.

  • The Raspberry Pi
  • A Micro USB charger or power supply
  • HDMI Cable
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Memory Card

Once you’ve got those, you can be up and running in minutes. I’ll show you how to do just that in the next page.

Update: 25-Jun

It turns out that the £13 Model A+ was a only a limited time offer.

It still pays to shop around for a deal on these boards, HotUKDeals is well worth a visit.

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