I'm wondering if it's possible to use the pi pins directly to toggle a led programmatically.
I don't have a GPIO board. Is it possible to connect the led to the pins and control it from the code?
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Yes, You can connect LEDs directly to Pi's pins. The Pi has many GPIOs on the header and you can use any one of them and connect an LED on a breadboard.
Here is one very well explained tutorial for the same:- Click Here
Here is reference image about LED Connection.