It all depends on your knowledge, both software and hardware. Do you
have a lot of experience with electronics in general, and digital
electronics in particular, or are you really just getting started?
The Pictstart Plus is a good system, but to put the chips to use after
you program them you will need to build something. Are you up to that?
If you'be built PC boards before, hopefully with some digital logic,
then go for it. If you're really a beginner, I would suggest starting
with something like the Basic Stamp from Parallax. They have a few
options, like a basic stamp, programming software and a solderless
breadboard and a handful of parts to get you started, prices are
reasonable and some come with introductory manuals that will jump-start you.
The PIC Kit 2 Debug Express let's you work with their introductory range
of microcontrollers, and it's 1/4 of the price. It's also nice to have it
running via USB. It is also capable of powering the included demo board
entirely via the USB connection. The downside is that it does not support
their full range of products, but it is good value for your money. Best of