is this a good kit to start out with http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2117994&cp=&pg=1&sr=1&retainProdsInSession=1&origkw=kit&kw=kit&numProdsPerPage=100&parentPage=search
I agree pretty exactly with "matseng." There are things to complain about, this would be a fine thing to start with. You can find more details, including online versions of the manual and the book, at the Parallax website
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If you got a microcontroller kit and got an adpater for the serial port to adapt it to the usb port would it still work?
In general, it's hard to say whether a microcontroller board designed to use a serial port will work with a USB/Serial adapter as well. Some boards (the PIC "JDM" programmer comes to mind) play rather fast and loose with the normal uses of serial port signals, in ways that a USB adapter just won't support. On top of that, not all USB/Serial adapters support the same features. I BELIEVE that Parallax boards that use a serial port for programming will work with a serial/usb adapter, and parallax sells such an adapter that is almost certain to work...
The "Basic Stamp Discovery kit" you found look similar to the "basic stamp Activty kit" (which is what RS sells), but it $149 vs $79. It has the separate Basic Stamp Module, but I don't think it's worth the extra 70 bucks. (you can buy an ADDITIONAL BS2 module for $49...)
the BS2 is good but get a "board of education" kit instead so you can take off the BS2 and put it on things
At close to double the price?
Yes, I think so. If you're new to programming and/or microcontrollers this is definitely a nice kit to start with. It seems to include a lot of the basic stuff that you can make a lot of experiments and learning with.
I don't say that this is the "best" or "cheapest" educational kit that you can buy, but I think that you'll be more than happy with it if you're interested in leaning how to program a microcontroller and let it interact with the real world.
Just be aware that you need a computer with a serial (RS232) comm port on it to be able to upload your programs to the kit.