I went to the Hardware Meetup with a bunch of things to do. Didn't get to do any of them because there was too much interesting chat. Which was great.
A few new folks turned up too and they were asking what to do to get started. Here's "Rob's Handy List of Hardware Fun Things to Do"
Get a bit of hardware to play with
The clue's in the name. We play with bits of hardware. This doesn't mean that you need to spend a lot of cash though. You can start with just an Arduino and a few leds and switches. The Arduino is the embedded device that we like to start with. It's easy to program and cheap to buy.
The best place to buy an Arduino is probably eBay. The one you want to gets started is an Arduino Uno (or compatible). Search for "Arduino Uno". You should be able to pick one up for less than a fiver.
An Arduino on it's own can't do much (although you can flash a light on it) so you might want to take a look at one of the kits that are available. You could start with one that contains a bunch of lights and switches and a few more advanced components. These are also on eBay; I quite like the ones branded Sintron, although others are quite good.
Download the Software
You program your Adruino using a PC, Mac or Linux device. The Arduino software is a free download from here.
Make something work
There are some getting started tutorials here that you might find useful. You can also search YouTube for Arduino videos; these are especially useful if you want to know how to use some of the more exotic devices in the kits.
Once you've got the examples working, have a go at something of your own.
Come to meetups
If you end up making something impressive, bring it along and show us. If you try to make something and get stuck, bring it along and we'll try to help out. We meet up approximately every two weeks at c4di in Hull. You can find the agenda for the meetups (and lots of other things) here.