I had been wanting to get hold of an Arduino board for a while. For the past few years there have been a fair few 'cool' projects created using the Arduino, but I had no inspiration of my own to really warrant buying one. The Arduino is a programmable microcontroller prototyping board that allows for electrical components to be plugged into it and then controlled using software written in a version of C++. I will say now that I have had no previous experience with C++. I currently use web programming languages, SQL and VB.net at work and did a bit of C at university so I thought that I'd just dive right into it. I got to grips with it in a few days so it wasn't too much of a learning curve.
I followed these two examples and some help from the #highaltitude channel on freenode IRC to get things up and running: