@TonyTib: If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).
I agree that anyone starting out from "ground zero" shoudl look around at all of the different alternatives before making a decision. In some cases it could be as simple as having a friend who has already opted for a particular platform, because that way you can share code and ideas and help each other answer problems.
In my case I'd purchased a 3D LED Cube with an Arduino-compatible controller -- plus I've sponsored a couple of Kickstarter project sthat also feature Arduino-compatible controllers ... so "Going Arduino" made total sense for me.
If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).
As far as ecosystem size goes, the Arduino is by far the biggest, but I think some others are enough including:
--Beagle family (especially BeagleBone Black). The BBB has some really cool capes such as FPGA and multi-axis stepper - and even an Arduino cape! The Beagle has BoneScript for rapid development.
--Gadgeteer-based systems such as the FEZ Hydra from GHI which run .NET micro framework. There are also .NET MF Arduino compatibles.
--The MSP430-based Launchpad and its BoosterPaks and Energia IDE (similar to Arduino IDE).
Then there are the plug in sensor and IO systems that standardize cabling which allow easily attaching many devices that can be located away from the board, such as:
--Grove from Seeedstudio
--Tinkerkit from the Arduino folks
--Gadgeteer from MS
--Pmod from Digilent
Many of these systems can be used with different base boards. For example, you can get Grove shields for Arduino and there's a Grove BoosterPack design on Upverter. The Cypress PSoC Pioneer kit can take Arduino shields and Pmods.
@B_Abling: we can use lasers - preferrably a CO2 laser. I'll get started on the design now.
Funnily enough, one of the guys in my office building just stopped by to show me a new laser that's powerful enough to burn holes through stuff (I've managed to put the fires out and will clean up the office later)
@Duane: Recently, though, a number of 32 bit Arduino compatible boards have been released....
And the great thing is that any programs you've written for the 8-bit boards will compile down to the 32-bit boards without any problems -- all you have to do is tell the compiler which board you are connected to...