Hey there, welcome to the community!
I’ll try and answer some of your concerns/questions.
What experience do you have? Electronics, programming, anything in that general direction?
In all fairness, it’s a maker kit, whereby the Photon is promoted as a wireless development kit. It’s hard to develop things without knowing what you’re doing. It’s like trying to work on a car without knowing how to use a wrench. You might not have knowledge of all the components, but once you’ve figured out the basic principles, it’s a lot easier to get the others working.
That said… There are plenty ways to learn. An Arduino is a microcontroller, as is the Photon. They’re like tiny computer you can program, specifically made to ‘control’ things, which is what they’re good at. Programming an Arduino is done using the Wiring language, which can also be used on the Particle devices. That’s pretty much where the similarities end though. The particle devices use very different hardware which make them a lot more capable.
Luckily, however, the biggest changes have been abstracted, and are available to use with the wiring language. Thanks to that, a lot of Arduino tutorials are also applicable to the Particle devices. Due to the hardware differences, some changes to code may be required though, which you should keep in mind.
In many cases, yes, that will work. In other cases, maybe, with some small modifications. In a select few, hardly, due to major hardware dependencies, which basically requires you to rewrite the entire code.
Considering your lack of experience in this field, might I suggest you start off a bit less complicated? First try some small, seemingly simple, projects. Blinking LEDs are basically the ‘hello world’ of electronics. Advance from there using some other components, which preferably don’t require complicated libraries, yet. Once you’ve got the hang of that, try making it increasingly more complex. As you may have already figured out, hooking up, and configuring, a display like that is quite involved, and not as easy as one might expect. Starting with simpler things allows you to get used to the way these components are hooked up, and more importantly, how it’s written up.
Well, just because a Ferrari isn’t red doesn’t mean it’s not a Ferrari. It’s just a color. PCBs come in a variety of colors, whereby red happens to be the signature color of Sparkfun. Sparkfun is a big company dealing in maker electronics. They help start-ups, provide services aimed towards makers, as well as creating their own products. The latter is what connects them to Particle. They’ve created several ‘shields’ which can easily be hooked up to a Core/Photon and interacted with. Sort of plug&play extensions. One of them is an OLED screen, which I figure is what you stumbled upon.
Following the tutorial on their site may, or may not work, depending on what board was used and if the pins are configured in the same way. If not, you’ll have to adjust for that in code. Seeing as this might be a bit complicated, might I once again suggest you start off with something a bit less involved.
I’m tempted to call it ‘basic knowledge’, but can understand if that sounds harsh. Trust me it’s not meant that way. If you’re planning on doing something serious with the kit, you’ll need some basic knowledge of electronics (resistors, capacitors, etc). That’s true for every field that deals with electronics, and Particle is no different in this regard.
An LDR for example shouldn’t really have to be explained. If you’ve ever heard of a voltage divider, you should at least have a rudimentary idea on how you might be able to use one of those. Explaining how to hook up LEDs, and why you require resistors is also something that’s considered ‘basic knowledge’ in my (personal) opinion.
That said, there are some excellent tutorials out there for arduinos which deal with all these, and more, kinds of situations. If you’re really just starting off, getting a couple of starter books might not be a bad idea. Getting an Arduino (clone) might also help you learn things more easily, since most guides/tutorials are specifically aimed towards Arduino.
With that in mind, I’m sure there will be tutorials for particle devices as well. Arduino is a bit older, so it’s had a bit more time to mature. Particle is still young, and actively growing. With time, I’m sure these resources will improve (if they’re not already secretly working on something).
So, the above might sound a bit scary, but let me assure you it’s very much doable. The Spark(/Particle) Core was my first microcontroller, and I’ve found it a great way to learn things. The community here is also exceptionally helpful, so if you ever get stuck, feel free to ask for help. I’m sure there are plenty of people willing to help out, as I’ve seen them do before.
Best of luck!