I'd like to second the call for low-cost boards. I started out as a software guys with hobby electronics background, and I've been keeping a quarter of an eye on FPGAs for a very long time. However, nothing has pushed me into actually learning about them, until I got to an application where the built-in peripherals in an MCU aren't enough -- I need a large amount of quadrature decoders, cheaply, with a very small amount of logic. Even so, paying the $70 or so for the Papilio One + Logic Start MegaWing was a barrier that kept me away from it for about six months, before I could finally take that plunge. If the price had been substantially higher -- say, over $89 to get started -- I may never have taken the plunge. Meanwhile, the 250k gate-units in the One 250k is just fine for me; I don't have any plans to take the world by storm with a speculative-execution free CPU core or anything ;-) Personally, I'm not as excited about the Arduino form factor. There are a lot of shields, true, but I find that most of them are not right for my projects. In the low-power MCU world, I'd much rather use a bare, DIP, Atmega, and a soldered breadboard or a quick PCB from some place like OSH Park, to get where I need to go. Also, the Arduino shields/pinouts are criminally short on GND pins, and also somewhat short on supply pins; for any "real" system you have to break those out using some other method anyway. I find the Papilio wing system to be much better for this purpose, honestly.