pionzypherm asks: "I work at a glass plant for a major beer company. My job entails monitoring the furnaces that melt the glass. I have been working on a project on the side, collecting data from various sources and compiling it into an easily used form for the higher ups. I've finished two of our three furnaces, but one remains. This furnace uses technology from the early nineties. There is no networking, the hardware is completely closed and unavailable for any screen scraping. Two of the items I'm looking to monitor (and would appear to be the easiest starting point) are two valves for a gas and oxygen line which will provide data on a portion of our energy usage. I was thinking of a microcontroller board or something similar tied in to monitor the positions of the valves. I'm unsure where to begin though. What books, microcontroller boards or alternatives would you recommend for someone new to this? What suggestions would you have for such a project, and what pitfalls might I run into?"