A Brief History!
The camera was conceived about 1000 years ago, but it wasn't until the early 1800's that a way to keep the image was found, the photo on the (top) is the earliest know photograph from 1826 entitled View from the Window at Le Gras. The photo on the right (below) is believed to be a couple of the earliest 'selfies'.
The box camera by Kodak was manufactured in 1910, followed by 35mm film cameras and colour film in 1940, when photography as a hobby took off.
The first digital camera was made by Kodak in 1975, but first digital photos lacked 'depth' - Digital photography took over from film in the early 21st Centaury
Lets talk rubbish!
"You'll never be a good photographer if you don't use manual (mode)" - Most professional photographers are more than happy to help the beginner with good tips and useful information, but some amateur photographers are very elitist, and often spout such rubbish as "you'll never be a good photographer if you don't use manual" - rhetorical rubbish! All this serves to do is make them feel important and put the beginner off. I use Aperture priority, as do most of the professional photographers I know, the program modes are very good, and adjustable (See settings) - Manual mode is very good for experimenting with your camera but don't believe its the only 'proper' mode.
"You should never use 'Auto'" - Rubbish! If you're new to photography and want to get out there and have fun, use auto, you can worry about all the other settings as and when you want to, the important thing is to enjoy it.
"You need a DSLR to take good photos" - Rubbish! I have won some competitions using a camera phone. The best camera is the one you have with you. Obviously camera phones don't have all the functions of a DSLR, but if the light is good and you don't want to zoom, the camera phone is adequate.
What do you need to know?
In truth, as much or as little as you want, I would look through this brief guide and if you want to know more there are plenty of places to go to find a more in depth understanding of the principles, I would suggest understanding things in this order :-
Introduction - Camera Settings - Composition - Light - Exposure - Editing
What equipment do I need?
Obviously a camera would be useful, whether a DSLR, a compact or a phone camera, they are all capable of decent pictures.
With a DSLR comes the need for lenses, the choice of lenses is dependent upon the type of photography you choose. Wide angle lenses are best for landscapes, long lenses for nature, air shows etc, zooms are very versatile
Some say an essential piece of equipment is a good sturdy (lightweight) tripod. (personally i avoid them when I can).
A strap or clip