Digital electronics is not that hard, it's either 0, 1 or an illegal value.
Analog electronics is HARD.
Yes, digital electronics is easy and fun, on paper. Physical circuits will never miss the opportunity to remind you that there's a difference between abstractions and reality. To the uninitiated even a using a simple voltage regulator or a transistor can be a challenge. The internet made a difference, with the availability of datasheets and reference designs, but the first steps are still hard.
I hear you, I've moved to software development as well since there are few jobs in electronics.
Funny, I did the opposite. I started off as a Software Engineer and then went to the "hard side". Firmware is still software, just a lot more interesting as you cannot get closer to the metal than that.
Decades later I'm still caught as a software developer at heart, though: apparently I use too may LEDs in my circuits (it's for debugging purposes, I swear) and my firmware tends to abstract the hardware away too much. Still plenty of time to learn how to do it right.
I wonder if you could use an Arduino and then write an application for a PC to control the machine?
They both use the Processing language for the PC application and an Arduino.
Just my 2c worth
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