RPi Pins & Pin Numbering

In the first installment of this series we wrote a simple Java program that used the Pi4J library to set one of the RPi’s GPIO ports low and reads its status. Before we go any further with our tutorials, let us take a quick look at what GPIO is, and what it offers.

Pi4J provides a class RaspiPin to give you an abstraction of the GPIO pins on the board. We used the following snippet of code to set the pin low:

[code language=”java”]
GpioPinDigitalInput myButton = gpio.provisionDigitalInputPin(RaspiPin.GPIO_00,

Notice how we used RaspiPin.GPIO_00 to refer to the pin that we wanted to set as an input pin.

What is GPIO?

GPIO stands for “General Purpose Input Output” and, as the name suggests, it refers to a set of pins that provide generic input and output capabilities for the RPi. While most of the pins are truly “general purpose” pins, a few pins can be used for specific purposes (such as I2C communication, Serial communication, etc.) Obviously, when those pins are being used for their specific functions, they cannot be used as general purpose pins.

Pin Numbering

Pin numbering has been the subject of much debate and angst among the Raspberry Pi community for a while now. Since I’m not exactly a fan of angst and/or controversy, let us stay out of the debate and just state that we will use the WiringPi numbering scheme from here on out.

Pi4J is based on a project called WiringPi, which is a set of native libraries that provide access to the RPi’s GPIO ports. The pin numbers and their mapping to the actual pins on the RPi header are given in the picture below.

RPi Pin Out

The numbers in bold will be used as our GPIO pin numbers. In Pi4J, the pin numbers are prefixed by GPIO_ and are zero-padded. So, the pins are referred to as GPIO_00, GPIO_01, and so on through GPIO_20.

In all circuit diagrams going forward, I will be using the image below to represent the RPi header and the pin out. The pin numbers on the outside of the diagram are the physical pin numbers on the header while the textual descriptions within the rectangle are those of the corresponding Pi4J equivalents.

RPi Header Circuit Schematic