1) >> Are you all telling me that I actually have to go read the microfiche at my local FHC? <<
>>Am I wrong, or is that going to take 100s of hours?<<
Welcome to the world of genealogy. This is historical research, if you enjoy reading, learning and studying, you've found the right hobby. You're not ready to dive yet, spend time in the wading pool.
2) >>What if some of these have already been digitized somewhere else, how would I know?<<
Check the *Records* section on the site. New data is being uploaded as it is being digitized and indexed.
>>The volume of information here is frankly overwhelming (and I am a computer-guy!)<<
This indicates your research skills need some bumping up. Give the dead relatives a rest and spend some time familiarizing yourself (reading and learning) with the resources and how to evaluate data in them. A good "how-to" genealogy book covers this territory. You can also find how-to info and videos on the net. Let google be your friend.
3)>> What about paper records that haven't been put onto microfiche yet.<<
95%+ of historical research data is not on-line. What you find on Ancestry.com is probably less than 1%, ditto familysearch.org. Again, a "how-to" genealogy book seems in order.
>> Is there a family history "TO DO" list somewhere that I can see?<<
Yes, every library and archive in the world has one. Every State, every country has it's own criteria of what is digitized and archived. Money and privacy concerns are two factors that determine how data is treated. Devoting funds to preserve the past is not high on many lists.
>>Seeing all this stuff makes me wonder what else I am missing.<<
Again, a "how-to" genealogy book.
4) >> Some of these catalog items are just a few rolls of 35mm film. It should cost about $125 to digitize the catalog entry. Will they let me do that? I'll give the electronic version back to them for free...<<
No, you can't remove the film/fiche from the FHC.
I suggest you find the closest FHC to you (this is on the familysearch.org site) and pay a visit. Some are better equipped than others. They are run by LDS volunteers in most cases, and the degree of their knowledge depends on the individual. Some FHC have an existing and permanent cache of film, ie; film ordered by another researcher for permanent loan from SLC. You might find some fit your needs and don't need to order another copy.
Your local library can have a tremendous amount of resource as well. Pay them a visit and ask the librarian if they offer gene classes. Ask them to walk you though how to do an inter-library loan. Yup, libraries loan books to one another. Contact your local historical/genealogy society, many have active chapters and members that can assist you in learning the gene ropes.
Unfortunately, Ancestry's "you just have to start looking" is a sneaky and mostly false claim. This is not a quick and easy pursuit. If you enjoy reading, learning and studying, this is the hobby for you.