The main reservoir in my water cooling system has an acrylic top and bottom. The bottom section has a predrilled whole meant for an LED. My plan is to mount either a dual color LED(red, blue) in this hole. Or drill a second whole and mount 2(again red, blue). Also I will be adding a thermosistor(or some other temp sensor band-gap, etc.) to the loop for temperature sensing.
I would like to have some kind of microcontroller/basic stamp/RISC CPU+Dog watch the thermosistor value(or some kind of interpreter hooked up to the thermosistor) and vary the intensity of the two LED's accordingly. So when the system detects say a temperature of 30C and below only the Blue LED will be lite. But once 35C or more is reached it should slowly add in the red LED while dialing down the blue LED until say 50C. At which point I would like the red LED to be fully lit. I would imagine through the use of 2 PWM channels or output to some kind of external PWM controller. The system will run off the computers powersupply as 12, 5, and 3.3 volts are all readily available.
I have some future projects planned that will also require microcontrollers(or perhaps a full on PC).
Briefly these include:
1) A lighting controller for my workstation(comp. desk)
Required functionality: No fewer than 4 PWM channels for controlling high wattage transistors(preferably more, many more). Aswell as a few channels for running Running relays. No less than 12 independent I/O channels.
2) A realtime/logging AC power consumption meter similar to these Link Link.
Required functionality: Monitor an AC shunt(s) value. Display watt usage as well as projected usage over various time periods via a small LCD display. Log usage over time of a connected AC load.
3) A full home heating and cooling system based on long term thermal storage.
Required functionality: Polling of multiple temp. sensor, flow meters, and power shunts. be able to trip relays for pumps, and perform long term data storage of all system values.
My technical background includes 2 years of electronics in highschool 10 years ago. Along with some programming courses in college(basic, pascal, C++). I'm good for Ohm's law and not much else. But I have an absurd amount of free time coming up here shortly and wouldn't mind getting in way over my head.
So the question is a simple one.
Which microcontroller family/models should I be looking into meet my current and future project goals while keeping in mind this the first time I have ever attempted anything like this? PIC? AMTEL? Motorola?