I started out with the basic stamp. I think I used two of those before I decided it was
too constraining for what I was doing, which was light control (sequencers/dimmers for DJ
and theater applications)
I then used the Parallax PIC programmer with the 16c84. That was so I didn't need an
EPROM eraser for the PICs. However, I then left for two years to serve as a missionary for
my church, where I did nothing with electronics.
When I returned, I was busy with work, but when I did get back into it, I found that
the Parallax programmer was not really receiving the support I needed it to have. Whereas
I found the Picstart to be always up to date. The definition files are released before the
PICs are actually in production, so I can simulate them before asking for samples, and in
the time I've owned it, Microchip has released 1 firmware upgrade, and two MPASM upgrades,
both for free. The Parallax programmer required a new firmware upgrade for nearly every
new PIC that came out. I didn't want to deal with that for any other company or do-it
yourself hobbyist programmer, where the author would move on to other things, or start
selling upgrades. So, for me, the Picstart was well worth the money I paid for it.
The AVR, while faster, and with a supposedly easier mnemonic assembly set, is not
readily available in the wide variety and at the low cost that the PIC is. I will
probably build a simple programmer and try one out sometime, but I can't depend on getting
the parts I need when I need them.
I do not use many of the other available uControllers partially because I do not know
very much about them, partially because PIC got to me first, and it suits my needs, and
partially because of the expense involved in switching.
I am planning on choosing a 16 bit processor in the near future to experiment with.