I just bought myself a microcontroller programmer from Microchip. It's called the PICkit 1. It's a great deal for just $36 too. I also picked up a handful of micro controllers of different sizes. The ones that I really want are backordered til March, but oh well. You're probably wondering at this point what exactly a microcontroller is. Basically it's an chip with a fully enclosed 8 bit high speed computer (up to 40MHz) that can be programmed to do whatever you want. They run from 8 pins on up past 40. Typically all but two pins are used for whatever you want, input, output, digital, analog, whatever. The other two are for power. Oh yah, and the chips themselves run about $1-5 each in single unit quantities.