Operating microcontrollers without interrupts is very inefficient. One of common used microcontrollers among hobbyists id AVR. Starters probably would go with Arduino board where AVR Atmega168/328 is used. It doesn’t matter weather you are programming in Arduino style or plain C it is advised to use interrupts. EngBlaze has written a tutorial on programming AVR timers using interrupts.
tutorial thoroughly goes through all information you may need including: what is timer, types of timers and finally running them in various modes. Once timers are set most of work is done in hardware with short interrupt routines where changes can be made. If you interested more about timers we have written couple tutorials on programming them using C.