Thanks Steve. I have been thinking a fair bit about this.
With the limited knowledge I have now, I feel this is not the way I want to go.
My reasoning is that I want the arduino to be just the data gatherer, and to be as simple as possible. I want the data processing, presentation, and archiving to be on the laptop.
This has more to do with personal development than making a one off device.
Possibly a better description of what I am seeking is to choose a programming language to become familiar with. It should allow me to handle and display data, and to communicate with an external hardware device in real time. I would like avoid learning multiple languages or wasting time going down any blind paths.