A. This is a difficult question to answer in a general way because, ultimately, it depends on what you already know.
If you are familiar with the basic concepts related to electronics, microcontrollers and programming you can probably
just jump right in. If not, you'll probably need to buy a book or two to help fill in the areas where you're not as strong.
For an introduction to some of the central concepts you'll need, the book Physical Computing by Dan O'Sullivan and
Tom Igoe may serve you well.
The book gives example circuits and code for several types of microcontrollers including
the BasicX-24 microcontroller.
Another book to consider is BasicX and Robotics by Chris Odom.
These books are particularly useful since the 24-pin ZX devices (like the ZX-24p) are pin-compatible with the BasicX-24
and ZBasic is a superset of the BasicX language.
We recommend that you get started by using one of the 24-pin ZX devices, e.g. the ZX-24p.
In order to use this microcontroller, you'll need a way to power it and a way to connect it to your computer.
Although you can purchase from several sources a "carrier board" (e.g. the Parallax Board of Education) that
is compatible with the 24-pin ZX devices, we recommend using a solderless breadboard
because, although it takes a little more work to get set up initially, it is much more flexible in the long run.
Solderless breadboards are available from a variety of sources in various sizes.
Lastly, if your computer does not have a standard serial port (9-pin or 25-pin) but does have a USB port, you'll
also need a USB-to-serial port converter.
Note, however, that some USB-to-serial converters are too slow to be useful with the ZX microcontrollers.
The converters made by Parallax and our own USB Converter
are known to work well as they are based on the second generation FTDI chips.