Since the planetarium days, I’ve favored Orion Telescopes as an excellent and reliable source of reasonably priced and good quality telescopes. Their telescopes are well-made, of outstanding quality, and not the absurdly overpriced telescopes you find at your nearest big store.
What we used to call those “department store” telescopes, which typically were of poor quality and vastly overpriced. The classic starter telescope is a 2.4-inch (60-mm) refractor on an altazimuth mount. I’ve seen the “department store” versions of these for $250, even $400. The are often advertised as 400X or 300X magnification (which is absurd and meaningless). That same telescope, of higher quality, outstanding and appropriate accessories at Orion is $100.
I’m not going to cover all of the different types of telescopes but just refer you to the web for that. You should read about refractors and reflectors. Equatorial mounts and altazimuth. Dobsonian, Newtonian and Schmidt-Cassegrain, Maksutov and catadioptric telescopes in general. It sounds like a lot, but the basic ideas are not complicated.
I wrote this post while away from home on Sat 2014-11-01 and didn’t actually post it on day 23 but after midnight at 1:14 on day 24. I don’t actually have a way to post entries when away from home so I can only write them and then post them later. So, in fact, I didn’t actually do any of the work on this post on day 23.