Microcontrollers: Stamp, Picaxe, Microchip, Atmel? Assembly, Basic, C? Which way to go?

I have started getting into some different types of programming for microcontrollers lately. I have wanted to learn C for Microchip’s line of microcontrollers, and now that I have begun I have found it to be relatively expensive. There are pros and cons for every platform, so I am going to blog on my experience so far.
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