Which Raspberry Pi should I learn

Learning to program with Raspberry Pi: 6 recommendations

The Raspeberry Pi can now even serve as a replacement for Windows desktop computers. These are nice success stories. But what happened to the original vision of building an affordable learning computer for everyone?

You can still do that today, of course, and there are excellent books for that, five of which we would like to present to you here, as well as an experiment kit. Every product is related to Raspberry Pi and aims to expand the programming skills of the reader. You can use all of the books presented here with the Pi. A Windows, Mac or Linux computer is enough to work through some of them.

The books and the electronics set at a glance:

What we test

In addition to the presentation and language, we evaluate the learning effects and the fun factor. Ideally, both should be high. But especially with specialist literature, the target group is already equipped with so much prior knowledge that the content is tailored to these specialists.

Learning to program with the mouse (Philip Kiefer)

  • Publisher and price: Vierfarben Verlag / 19.90 euros
  • Extent: 192 pages in color
  • For whom? Children with reading skills and a high level of curiosity
  • Program: Scratch
  • Learning effect: high
  • Fun factor: high
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi - alternatively Windows or Mac computer with installed Scratch; an active internet connection for some functions
  • Link to the publisher's website with purchase option

"Learning to program with the mouse" by author Philip Kiefer is aimed at the youngest programming beginners. This is shown by the appealing, colorful layout and the easy-to-understand language. The book starts with the absolute basics: What is programming? What do I need to be able to program? What is scratch and why is it the ideal start?

Which brings us to the content of the book. Philip Kiefer teaches computer operation and scratch skills. You put programs in this programming language together from simple blocks. You "grab" these with the mouse pointer and drag them to the point in the code where they should trigger something.

Scratch is free and at home on many platforms. It is part of the Raspberry Pi software package and is also available for Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS and Android. You can find the downloads on the Scratch website.

Child-friendly introduction to programming

What do the kids learn? Scratch is a full-fledged programming environment. IT professionals would turn up their noses now because the limits are tight compared to real coding programs. As an introduction, however, it is more worth investing time in Scratch than failing the higher hurdles of Java, Python and Co.

Kiefer uses the low entry threshold to initially explain simple program processes. The cat, which is prominently placed in Scratch, is taught to young readers to walk, fly and muzzle. After four more, very compact chapters, the new programmers are ready to create their own cartoons. In the main role: a self-drawn figure!

The book highlights are the games. Sure, you won't get a million-seller for PlayStation, Xbox or Switch off the ground with it. However, the click and ball catching games put together arouse curiosity to plan and implement further games.

Do you want to deepen your scratch knowledge? Then the WDR - the house broadcaster of the "Sendung mit der Maus" - offers nine further projects for learning.

Free of charge on the mouse side.

The conclusion is made up of small insights into advanced projects and the extensive glossary. The kids use this to develop terminology if they have difficulty understanding them.

Rasberry Pi for kids (Michael Weigend, 3rd edition)

  • Publisher and price: mitp Verlag / 29.99 euros
  • Volume: 476 pages
  • For whom? Children aged 12 and over with basic computer skills
  • Programs: Scratch, Python
  • Learning effect: high
  • Fun factor: high
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi; For some experiments, readers need the picoboard or breadboard
  • Publisher website with purchase option

Learn to program and experiment - author Michael Weigend opens the door wide to the Raspberry universe! However, admission is only granted to readers aged 12 and over. An arbitrarily drawn age limit? Not at all. First computer and foreign language skills are the basis for understanding and internalizing all book contents.

From scratch programs (left) to LCD experiments (center) to battery-operated wildlife cameras (right), “Raspberry Pi for Kids” offers a wide field of experimentation. (Photos courtesy of the publisher)

The book is divided into three parts. First, you will learn how to prepare the Raspberry Pi, install the software and adapt the user interface to your needs. The third edition of the book is a bit out of date on this point. From the original Pi to the third generation, the installation instructions cover many models. You won't find the Raspberry Pi 4. When we asked, the publisher assured us that the next edition would be updated on this point.

It remains to be seen whether the installation of the Raspbian operating system via NOOBS is still up to date. There are many ways to the operational Pi. And finally, after reading the first third of the book, all readers have a ready-to-use programming environment.

In order to get to know the Pi and Raspbian, Michael Weigend first guides you through various programs. File manager, Mathematica, LXTerminal and the alternative media system KODI. Very dizzy from these impressions, you can get down to business.

From Scratch ...

In the middle part of the book, Scratch is in the foreground. If a few steps are reminiscent of the mouse learning book, the results are much more complex, one could also say: more complex. At first glance, the top-down racing game and meteor shooting game don't seem particularly exciting. At second glance, however, the author lays a good and clever foundation for complex rules of the game and their implementation in scratch modules.

Scratch is the gentle introduction to the programming world. (Photos courtesy of the publisher)

Before switching to Python, Weigend pulls out all the stops and shows what is possible with the Picoboard. You hang this board on your Raspberry Pi via USB and let it see, hear and use its slider as an input device.

... to Python

The hard break occurs in the last third. Here, Python is the programming language that readers should learn. In order not to run over them, everyone starts again from scratch. Simple math formulas, simple date queries and text output, for example. Then the pace of learning increases. Instead of bland input and output commands, the book swings over to the electronic control via GPIO board. This breadboard is another purchase that is worthwhile. Because many of the following experiments from the book make use of the board's versatility.

Color locks! Encrypted websites! Or just measure the temperature. Author Weigend picks up kids with interesting projects. (Photos courtesy of the publisher)

That sounds dry, but it isn't. We don't know what to use to attract attention. After reading the book, you will be able to build a wildlife camera, program your own smart home and set up the Pi as a web server.

So that knowledge remains anchored, each chapter closes with a short question-and-answer test. Remember school? But yes, and that is exactly the big plus point of this book. You do not only acquire knowledge in the short term, but deepen it and anchor it permanently.

Introduction to Python 3. For beginners and those switching. (Bernd Klein, third edition)

  • Publisher and price: Hanser / 25.00 euros
  • Extent: 537 pages in black and white
  • For whom? Beginners with good technical and English skills
  • Program: Python
  • Learning effect: high
  • Fun factor: medium
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi - alternatively Windows or Mac computer with installed Python programming environment
  • Link to the publisher's website with purchase option

Graduate computer scientist Bernd Klein is on the road as a course lecturer for the programming language Python in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada. So a cosmopolitan who poured his experience from over 200 courses into letters. The result was the introduction to Python 3, which is now available in its third edition.

At first it is not entirely clear which target group Klein wants to address. Beginners? Advanced? Even if the subtitle suggests that it is written for beginners and those switching, a solid basic knowledge is helpful.

After a brief introduction to the chapter (left), the basics (center) and the practical implementation (right) are quick. In this way, readers get to know the most important building blocks for realizing their ideas. (Photos courtesy of the publisher)

Once you have acquired this, the book will very soon develop its pull. Because the author has solutions ready for many problems with Python 3. How to easily program complex mechanisms or how to avoid conflicts in the code.

Despite a few projects in the book, the author orients himself to those who already have ideas in the back of their minds. So if you know in which direction your project should go, this book is an ideal companion.

Code the Classics - Vol. 1 / Wireframe magazine (Wireframe editorial team)

  • Publisher and price: Raspberry Pi Trading Ltd. / free of charge (PDF), around 10 euros (printed version)
  • Scope: Code the Classics, Vol. 1 with 221 full-color pages / wireframe issues with around 70 pages per issue
  • For whom? Advanced students with a penchant for self-study
  • Programming environment: Python
  • Learning effect: low
  • Fun factor: high
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi with Raspbian OS
  • Publisher website with purchase option
  • Free PDF download

The fact that some of the best learning books and notebooks come from Great Britain can already be explained by England's long computer tradition. As early as the 1980s, the BBC published a successful school computer, flanked by the legendary Sinclair ZX and today the Raspberry Pi.

The wireframe editorial team is linked to the engineering office of the single-board computer. This publishes a monthly game magazine that contains new and classic game titles as well as an article with lines of code. There the readers learn how to bring their own retro titles to their Raspberry Pi or another computer with a Python programming environment.

The highlight? All of this is completely free!

If you don't care to have a high quality printed edition in your hands, you can download all wireframe editions. The free download is also available for the book “Code the Classics, Vol. 1” presented here. In it you will find five games to build:

  • Pong
  • Frogger
  • Centipede
  • Bubble bobble
  • Sensitive soccer

A lot of extra information about the history of the original and the game consoles such as computers complete the content.

Knowledge of English required

Is there anything negative to say? Nice. Without knowledge of English you are in a fix, there is no introduction to Python. The book is therefore unsuitable for beginners. If you are a beginner, the coding degenerates into typing the games bluntly (or copying them from the PDF or the archives) and then seeing how this or that game reacts to the change in lines of code.

However, I don't want to weight the positive about it any less. For each project, you need a little one to two hours before the code is typed into the keys by hand. If you use the downloadable Python files, you will also receive extensive commentary that goes far beyond what can be found in the accompanying book.

Since every game project can be started immediately with careful implementation, the first successes can be seen quickly. How you implement your own projects from here or expand existing examples remains an approximation. The only way to do this is to refer to one of the many Python books.

Programming Raspberry Pi with C / C ++ and BASH (Harald Schmidt)

  • Publisher and price: Hanser / 38.00 euros
  • Extent: 796 pages in black and white / eBook in full color
  • For whom? Advanced students with a penchant for self-study
  • Programming environments: C / C ++, BASH
  • Learning effect: very high
  • Fun factor: Very low
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi with installed operating system
  • Link to the publisher's website with purchase option

Harald Schmidt. Have you heard of it before? Sure, the first thing that would come to mind was one of the late night talkers. But he has not written a book about the Raspberry Pi. Its namesake is a qualified engineer and deals with the binary joys of image processing and pattern recognition. Schmidt has prepared more than 50 programs for this work, which is almost 800 pages long. He serves the fields of photo, video and audio equally. The target audience, however, are all those with a lot of experience in IT and programming. The chance for newcomers to get an overview in the chapters is almost zero.

Graduate engineer Schmidt explains the structure of the Raspberry Pi in detail and comments on its software. The book is clearly aimed at IT connoisseurs. (Photos of the eBook version with the kind permission of the publisher.)

Schmidt first dissects the Raspberry Pi down to the smallest detail. Only on page 143 does he reveal his schedule for Pi programming. And from there it takes as long again before the first hardware-related projects can be found. And these are not complete, self-contained applications, but rather program components that readers put together to create their own major projects.

The fact that these then have to be written in the languages ​​C / C ++ and BASH further increases the hurdles. Schmidt's book is therefore extremely unsuitable for beginners. IT professionals, however, can take a lot with them from the content and make it their own for further qualifications.

Freenove Ultimate Starter Kit for Raspberry Pi

  • Price: around 45 euros
  • Extent: 472 pages as PDF
  • For whom? Electronics enthusiasts with sound basic knowledge
  • Programming environment: Python
  • Learning effect: low
  • Fun factor: medium
  • Technical requirements: Raspberry Pi with installed operating system

Not a book in the classic sense, but an electronics experiment kit. A large number of providers put together such packages with which you can get straight into electronics. We decided on a combination of the Asian supplier Freenove. Not because of the quality, which we can only make statements about after a hands-on anyway. Rather, it was the sheer volume and the promise that it would come with a book of over 440 pages.

You must have purchased the single-board computer beforehand. And ideally should also have a printer. Because the manual supplied turns out to be a PDF download. That is 472 pages, which prevents comfortable reading on the screen. A printout goes into the postage again properly, but is almost essential.

As lavish as the electronics range, the quality of the individual experiments is average. Make an LED flicker, control a servo motor or build your own radio. That could be fun. The poorly edited instructions prevent you from understanding what you are actually doing.

And so you put contacts in the circuit board in the best LEGO fashion, put other building blocks on top and look forward to triggering something after loading the Python code.

Learning to program with this package is not recommended. In combination with another book like “Raspberry Pi for Kids”, the expenses for the electronic components pay off.

Conclusion: many books, many target groups

This ends our little excursion into the book cosmos of Raspberry literature. We do not have a clear recommendation; it depends entirely on your previous knowledge and on where you want to go with the Raspberry Pi. Do you have any recommendations, suggestions or questions? Then write to us directly in the comments!

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