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I am a programmer and I have never really dealt with the hardware of anything, only software. I want to start building things that I can control from my computer using programming. My question is are there such devices on the market that have a programmable interface or API?

For example, I want to build an automated window blinds opening/closing device, and I would like to be able to control it from my computer e.g. writing an app or some code to schedule them when to open and close. I would like to know if there are any devices that can be programmed to do that (the computer part)?

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If you're into robotics, why not join the Robotics Proposal? –  Rocketmagnet Oct 6 '12 at 20:09

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At the very simple end of the spectrum, requiring no programming out of the box, it sounds like you're talking about home automation hardware/software. There are a wide range of manufacturers working in this space, so it's probably easier to point you to Wikipedia: Home Automation than recommend any one make.

Moving up from the simpler end of the spectrum, you can do exactly this sort of thing with a Lego Mindstorms set (despite the Lego name, these aren't intended for young children), these are essentially programmable hardware and robotics sets, and like normal Lego they have as much customizability as you can imagine and are very easy to build/bolt together.

Moving towards the more hardcore end of the spectrum there are things like Arduino, an open source, programmable hardware platform.

Once you've decided where you want to go, this is the sort of thing that the Electronics and Robotics Stack Exchange sister-site specialises in.

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Also look up FPGA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-programmable_gate_array It's pretty low level, but even intel is adding fpga capabilities to their new Atom chips, calling it quickassist

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