my recommendation is to buy a used cam, either D70 from Nikon; 350D from Canon; E300 / E500 from Olympus or any other DSLR that cost you about 1K. From there, you can then explore what are the things you really want or is most important in a DSLR. Then, you can sell away the cam and get the camera system that most suit your requirement.
If you happen to find out that DSLR is too complicated / expensive a hobby, then you can always sell away your cam losing only few hundred bucks..
Just my 2 cents worth