Here is a visual guide of the equipment I use. I do also mention several components which you do well to store larger quantities of for everyday use (resistors and LEDs for example). Picture panes show only a small part of the photo. Click on then to view the entire shot.|
Microcontrollers and equipment
Arduino. A very nice board, does not have neither built in buttons (except for reset) nor LEDs, but certainly makes development for ATmega16 and 32 chips easy. It has a free opensource java-based IDE, set of libraries and a bootloader. This makes writing code a breeze for the beginners without the need to toggle fusebits etc. It has however some unfortunate difficulties with user-defined structs (this can be fixed with a simple workaround, but is both annoying and unnecessary).
STK16+ development board for ATmega16/32/8535. Gives you a number of various options including some basic input/ouput (8 buttons and 8 LEDs) and different programming ports. Great for testing code.
ATmega328. It is far too tempting not to use this chip with the Arduino board and bootloader. You can make simple applications in mere seconds. Not to mention it's also quite powerful (clocked at 16 MHz) and has enough pins for both simple and intermediate projects. I currently use ATmega328, however I have also used the ATmega16L microcontrollers like the one pictured above.
This is my programmer (USBasp). It is works flawlessly in Linux and Windows (through AVRdude), but is not supported by AVR Studio.
Soldering iron. A must-have. Don't listen to those who say that you should buy the most expensive temperature controlled soldering station in the beginning. On the contrary - I believe that the first soldering iron you own should be worth 10$ on eBay. Buy one of these, learn to work with it, ruin a couple of tips. Then see if you need something more advqnced when you reach the next stage. Notice the brass sponge, too. Get one of those, it helps immensley with cleaning the tip.
Soldering wire. I much prefer led-free one and you should too. However breathing in all the fumes of heated soldering wire and flux is certainly not healthy in either case.
Cables and wiring
A nice USB power cable which came with the development board, but can of course also be used for other purposes. A great alternative for getting a steady 5V power source.
Solderless cables are a mixed blessing, although I do find them very convinient to use.
The standard ISP cable.
Wire. This is essential although I sometimes find it rediculously difficault to find where to buy the wire I need. I am often on need of rather thin solid core wire - but you would think they were of gold how difficult it is to find. Perhaps find a local electronics store, because eBay will certainly not help you. Even Sparkfun have only one thickness which is slightly too thick for my taste.
Wire cutter and wire stripper are of course absolutely essential.
LEDs are very nice to have at all times. Depending on the need you might want to find more or less bright ones, power-conserving, multicolored, matte etc.
Resistors are essential to almost any circuit. So buy a set of these off of eBay with different resistance values and you are stocked for a long time.
Storage boxes. These neat little boxes are ideal for storing small components. Walls can individually be removed. Got them off of eBay.