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How to Use an OLED Display With Raspberry Pi Pico

OLED Display With Raspberry Pi Pico
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Raspberry Pi Pico has no shortage of options when it comes to digital displays. We can use LCD screens, output to VGA / DVI or use bespoke screens such as the Pico Display or Pico Explorer Base’s IPS display. But sometimes we need a small, cheap option to get the job done. OLED screens such as the 0.96 inch model used in this tutorial, are trivial to use with MicroPython and they cost only a few bucks (or pounds) making them ideal for projects.

In this tutorial, we will learn how to connect an OLED screen to a Raspberry Pi Pico via the I2C interface, then we will install a MicroPython library via the Thonny editor and learn how to use it to write text to the display.

The OLED screen uses the I2C protocol to interface with the Raspberry Pi Pico. Which means that we only require.

How to Connect an OLED screen to Raspberry Pi Pico 

Use the following wiring. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. Connect the GND of the screen to any GND on the Pico (Black wire).

2. Connect VDD / VCC to 3V3 on the Pico (Red wire).

3. Connect SCK / SCL to I2C0 SCL (GP1, Physical pin 2, Orange wire).

4. Connect SDA to I2C0 SDA (GP0, Physical pin 1, Yellow wire).

5. Connect your Raspberry Pi Pico to your computer and open the Thonny application.

With the hardware connected and Thonny open, we now need to install a library in order for Python to communicate with the screen.

6. Click on Tools > Manage Packages to open Thonny’s package manager for Python libraries.

7. Type “ssd1306” in the search bar and click “Search on PyPI”. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. Click on “micropython-ssd1306” in the returned results and then click on Install. This will copy the library to a folder, lib on the Pico. 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

9.  Click Close to return to the main interface. 

Programming an OLED Screen on Raspberry Pi Pico 

To write a single line of text to the OLED screen we need just six lines of MicroPython.

1. From the machine library, import the Pin and I2C classes. These are used to communicate with the OLED screen, attached to the GPIO of the Pico. 

from machine import Pin, I2C

2.  Import the OLED screen library

from ssd1306 import SSD1306_I2C

3. Create an object, i2c, which stores the I2C channel in use, in this case zero,  the SDA and SCL pins that we are connected to, and finally the frequency at which we connect to the OLED screen. 

i2c=I2C(0,sda=Pin(0), scl=Pin(1), freq=400000)

4. Create an object, oled, which will be used to communicate with the OLED screen. It has three arguments, the width and height of the screen (128 x 64 pixels) and the I2C connection details. 

oled = SSD1306_I2C(128, 64, i2c)

5. Write a line of text to the top left of the screen, position 0,0. 

oled.text("Tom's Hardware", 0, 0)

6. Finally  use the show command to render the output to the screen. 

oled.show()

The final code should look like this

from machine import Pin, I2C
from ssd1306 import SSD1306_I2C

i2c=I2C(0,sda=Pin(0), scl=Pin(1), freq=400000)
oled = SSD1306_I2C(128, 64, i2c)

oled.text("Tom's Hardware", 0, 0)
oled.show()

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Save and run your code. As with any Python script in Thonny, Click on File >> Save and save the file to your Raspberry Pi Pico as oled-test.py. When ready click on the Green play button to start the code and your text will appear on the OLED screen.