The new generation 18 pin PICAXE microcontroller now has parallel tasking, touch sensors and more memory/RAM.
See the Info Sheet for a comparison of features between the 18M2 and the 18M2+
PICAXE is a neat entry-level microcontroller system that is relatively cheap to get started with. The chip is programmed with a simple serial connection and the BASIC development environment is free! PICAXE has some excellent educational applications and support, and is a great entryway into more complicated embedded systems. If you're look for a place to start with microcontrollers, PICAXE is a great way to go!