LaunchPads are available directly from Texas Instruments and their $5 or $10 price includes all costs, even shipping, and usually a few extra microcontroller chips so you can try different configurations. They are from TI and $5 is much less than $25 or $35 to buy an Arduino or Raspberry PI. Working code samples are provided here.
Added a sketch for testing arduino digital inputs 2-13. Released into Public Domain. See http://jdnash.com/arduino/
Microsoft will resurrect the Start button in Windows 8.1. Texas Instruments launched its ARM-powered BeagleBone Black PC: faster hardware, lower power requirements for $45.