Raspberry Pi HATs

Updated 22 April 2022

Yep, Raspberry Pi is a very cool platform, so cool that they offer a range of stylish HATs to go with them. No not headwear, but fully functional hardware modules that are designed to plugin directly to the Raspberry Pi GPIO headers, and open up a world of possibilities that might be otherwise out of reach for the everyday DIY enthusiast. HAT stands for Hardware Attached on Top (they really wanted to use the HAT acronym) and is an open source design standard for creating out-of-the-box functional modules that adapt a standardised communication method and pinout, along with ready to use software libraries to support it. Anyone can create a Raspberry Pi HAT as long as it adheres to the HAT specifications found here.


Getting started with a Raspberry Pi HAT is pretty straight forward, different manufacturers will offer different guides for setting up specific functions, however the general concept should be fairly standard.

Today we’re going to have a look at using the Pimoroni Display-O-Tron HAT. This is a great option for setting up a small LCD display with some input options via the onboard buttons, not to mention the super cool RGB backlighting that is available.

Pimoroni have made it really easy to get started with their HATs and have written a great installation script to get you started. The first step is to download the required files onto the Raspberry Pi.

To do this, we go into the Terminal and type the following: curl –sS get.pimoroni.com/displayotron | bash

This will prompt you to enable SPI and I2C communication on your board (if not already enabled) and install all required software modules. Type ‘y’ and hit enter to follow the prompts and complete the installation. It will take a while (approx. 30mins). 

Once you get to this screen, you're all done installing the required files.

Installation finished

Pro tip: Snack on hot popcorn and Maltesers® on a 2:1 ratio at the same time. It will blow your mind.

Cool bananas, now there should be a folder called Pimoroni in your /home/pi directory containing all the required libraries and examples.

Now let’s make it do some cool stuff!

Go to your file manager, and navigate to /home/pi/Pimoroni/displayotron/dothat and you will find advanced and basic example folders which contain some nice example programs showing the various functions of the Display-O-Tron HAT.

To open up one of the example programs, double click to open it, and select open. The Python text editor should open up with the example code and you can select run > run module to run it inside of the Python shell.

**Note: The ‘dothat’ folder is short for Display-O-Tron HAT; dot-hat; dothat. That one’s free**

There you go, that is how easy it is to get up and running with Raspberry Pi HATs. Pimoroni have a range of other fantastic HATs, one of our favorites is the Pimoroni Piano HAT. Check out all the other fantastic HATs available, and get creating!

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