Gadgets ahead of their time

Timing is everything. Here are five humble gadgets that paved the way for most of the technology we use every day.

Last week I made the case for my theory that we are in a year filled with gadget fads . But really, I think it's equally true that we are living with a great number of mature technologies -- gadgets that have paid their dues, and may even be on the decline.

But before these staples of technology became inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives, they all started out as crazy, laughable ideas. Everything from the laptop to smartphone was once considered science fiction.

So to honor those pioneering gadgets that paved the way for the mundane, yet miraculous technologies that surround us today, this week's Top 5 spotlights some of the most important and unsung of them all.

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