My first batch in 1997 was with 2 cans of Muntons Hop flavored LME. 2 gal on the stove, added 3 gal cold water and dry yeast. Since then, I have acquired lots of equipment as I slowly improved each aspect of my brewing, learning a lot along the way. Now I have a nice 3 vessel system with pump and CFC. I would agree that fermentation temp, water chemistry, and all grain are three big improvements. My biggest challenge is time and money. How I wish I had an all-in-one electric system from the start, I would have saved a lot of money and time, but i did not have the money, or commitment in 1997. But how much would I have not learned from doing it the hard way? I think if I were to encourage someone new to start, I would encourage them to buy a 5gal all-in-one electric system, if they had the money and were committed. If money and commitment are in question, then there are plenty of options available. Also, education on the camden tablet as dmtaylor mentioned is easy; I like the idea of having it included in a kit. Fermentation control can also be a challenge. I built an insulated box and swap out ice blocks. Not everyone has the time to do that or the space, so that is something that would need education as well.