The idea sat in the back of my mind for a while until, eventually, I deemed it possible. It was an achievable goal for someone who hasn't built anything electronic for a decade and a half and hasn't got a clue how to put a computer together. Achievable despite all that because the Raspberry Pi is meant to be an entry into this world, so simple a child can understand.
After a bit of searching for what I needed, I slapped down around £80 to get the necessary parts (and a few more to give some options), before waiting until it was time to get unboxing.
What's in the boxes?
A Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, an 8gb MicroSD card and SD Card adapter, a USB Power Cable, an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable, a USB WiFi adapter, a USB keyboard and mouse, two USB SNES gamepads and a plastic Pi case (not called a Pi tin, unfortunately).
|I wouldn't even use the Mouse in the end|
What's not in the boxes?
The SD card image for Retro Pie, which is what we'll be using to do anything with, as well as various apps for formatting SD cards, and an FTP client like Cyberduck so that files can be transferred to the Raspberry Pi over the network. You'll also need a computer and monitor.
|I don't know if the card builder also did the job of the card formatter, but I'm playing it safe rather than sorry|
Pick up all of that and you're up and running. You don't need it all, the WiFi is optional, you may have keyboards laying around, the controllers are up to you and so on, but that will get you going. Cost will vary depending on what you need or want, but it likely won't break the bank.
|It's not pink, just reflective|
It goes without saying that this is the bit you need, the Raspberry Pi, and it's pretty much as I expected. Diddy, about the size of a deck of cards, and I'm paranoid of touching anything but the sides.
I'm following the guide I found on Lifehacker, who have decided that all readers are competent enough to not only follow along with easy to read but not necessarily newbie friendly directions, but to use the bleeding edge beta version of the latest RetroPie release.
While waiting for progress bars to progress, I'm also going back through some YouTube videos from a RetroPie expert called Floob. I can only hope I've absorbed enough information to make it through this process.
RetroPie is the software that'll power this whole project. Without it, I'd be up a certain disgusting creek without any form of canoe propelling apparatus. Thankfully for idiots like me, the latest releases of RetroPie make it easier and easier to get everything set up and running.
After downloading RetroPie Version 3.0 BETA 2, and using some handy (if a little suspect) Mac apps to make my life easier, we have a microSD card with everything ready to go.
|It's not exactly English, but it works, if you pay attention to what it's doing.|
Thanks, worldwide Raspberry Pi developers
It's time to hook the essentials up to the Raspeberry Pi, at which point I get that kind of nervous excitement you get from seeing whether something will work and hoping you haven't killed it before it has a chance to boot up.
Connected (anti-clockwise) are my power supply, an HDMI cable, a wireless adapter, my keyboard and a controller. I'm hoping that everything is as easy as I've been lead to believe, and upon turning it on, I'm greeted with a screeching sound that I'm really not too fond of... I eventually track it down to the USB power adapter, so already I'll need to find a replacement for that so that I can sleep a little better.
While that sound is bugging me however, I miss my cues to input my controller buttons. It's a good job it's easy to configure, and attempt two is more successful.
The situation as it stands: I have a Raspberry Pi that works, though the power supply needs looking at. I have a RetroPie that successfully boots into EmulationStation, the front end for browsing video game systems and games, and I have one working controller and a keyboard to fall back on.
All seems good, but I really need to get the wireless going in order to transfer any ROMs across, and to give me a bit more freedom of movement with where I want to keep my Raspberry Pi.
I came across three different methods for connecting my Raspberry Pi to WiFi, none of which worked. Why they didn't work I don't know. I'm following wiki's and forum posts as best I can, I'm rewriting and rebooting like a Hollywood movie executive but nothing seems to work.
Now when something is supposed to be easy and I'm struggling with it, I tend to get a bit frustrated. My own fault, don't blame the Raspberry Pi. Maybe I need to update something, maybe I need to wait for a more stable release of RetroPie - whatever the case, I resort to taking the WiFi adapter out, plugging the Ethernet cable in and relocating closer to the router.
At which point more of the same. I need an IP address, that's it, but I think I may have rewritten the various network files so much as to break them, so I think "You know what, I'll just restart. It was simple enough, I know I can do that much..."
The microSD works, I know that for sure. The adapter it came with? It got one use before failing. The little read/write protect tab is so loose that whenever it's inserted into my Mac it switches to read only. Real useful.
While I would later learn that you could supposedly do the old VHS 'cover it with tape' trick to get it to work again, I was in that moment pretty bummed out. I needed to start again but didn't have the tools, and perhaps wouldn't have them for another day or two.
That is until my lovely Player 2 popped in on her lunch break, rescuing me from my self-induced plight.
To find out how and to know what happened next, check out Part 2.