Blinking lights with GPIO

In my last post we looked at a basic query of the GPIO bus just to show that we could read it. This time I want to actually control something. Blinking a light is the IoT equivalent of Hello World, so we'll try that. In this setup, the anode (short lead) of the LED is connected to pin 19 by a smaller resistor, and the cathode (long lead) is connected to the 3v ground bar.


libgpio has two new functions we haven't seen so far: gpio_pin_high and gpio_pin_low which alternately set the pin to high voltage (on) and low voltage (off). If you aren't familiar with logic circuits, high and low are used instead of on or off, because there is in fact always a little bit of voltage even in the nominally off condition.

We're also using a bit of argument processing to control the length of time the light circuit spends in the high position and the low position. There's nothing magical about this, but if you want to learn more you should look at getopt man page.

Blinking Light Circuit

The Code

#include <inttypes.h>
#include <libgpio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
gpio_handle_t handle = -1;
int pin = 19;
int main(int argc, char **argv)
	int low_time = 1;
	int high_time = 1;
	int ch;
	while((ch = getopt(argc, argv, "h:l:")) != -1) {
		switch(ch) {
		case 'h':
			high_time = strtol(optarg, NULL, 10);
		case 'l':
			low_time = strtol(optarg, NULL, 10);
		case '?':
			fprintf(stderr, "%s [-l low_time -h high_time]\n",
			return EXIT_FAILURE;
	handle = gpio_open(0);
	if (-1 == handle) {
		return EXIT_FAILURE;
	gpio_pin_output(handle, pin);
	while(1) {
		gpio_pin_high(handle, pin);
		gpio_pin_low(handle, pin);

There are a few items worth noting:

  • gpio_pin_output(handle, pin); needs to be called as part of the pre-loop code so that the pin is marked for output. This means that we can set the pin high and it will send 3 volts down the line.
  • gpio_pin_high(handle, pin); inside of the loop actually sets the pin high and turns on our LED.
  • gpio_pin_low(handle, pin); inside of the sets the pin low, effectively turning the LED off.