Being by way of an introduction.
For many years, I’ve amused myself by building electronic devices. By far the most entertaining for me have been those which interact with the real world. I like stuff which moves things, senses things and generally behaves as if it had some magic in it. Since the advent of cheap microcontrollers, most of these projects have involved more programming and less electronics. I’ve had a lot of fun with PIC processors, which are dirt cheap. I particularly love the PICAXE, which is a pre-programmed PIC for which you can write code in a language similar to BASIC rather than diving into assembler. My other favourite is the Propeller. It’s an amazing chip with 8 cores, programmable in a higher-level language called SPIN. I’ve also dabbled with various embedded processors from Texas Instruments (if you like gadgets, check out the eZ430 chronos) and STMicroelectronics (try the unbelievably cheap STM8S-Discovery kit). There is also Arduino , of course (I’m glossing over that, because I’ve never actually used one).
All of these are capable devices in their own niches, and if you program them down to assembly language level, you can get quite a lot of performance out of them. I don’t want to program in assembler very much. It’s painful. Fortunately, there are other options.