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CNET Top 5: Gadgets ahead of their time
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CNET Top 5: Gadgets ahead of their time

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

Dek: Timing is everything. Here are five humble gadgets that paved the way for most of the technology we use every day. History is filled with brilliant ideas that changed the world, and every one of them must have first sounded like the ravings of a lunatic. Atomic energy, space travel, the George Foreman Grill. But with enough time, these bold visions took root and shaped the everyday world we live in today. The same is true for all of the great technology we use in our daily lives. Im Donald Bell, and in todays Top 5 Im counting down the great unsung gadgets that paved the way for the world of tech we take for granted today. 5. Sega Dreamcast Starting off at #5: the Sega Dreamcast. In a year that will launch both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, it seems only right to trace things back to the Dreamcast. Released in 1998, this was the first console to render games with full frames; the first with a built-in modem for online play; and that candy-colored four button controller looks pretty familiar. 15 years after its debut, you can still see the influence of Sega Dreamcast on todays consoles. Unfortunately for Sega, it was the last console they ever built. 4. Logitech Fotoman At #4: the Logitech Fotoman. Also known as the Dycam Model 1. This was the first, practical all-in-one digital camera sold to the public. Released in 1990 with an early adopters price tag of $995, the Fotoman boggled the mind with its ability to store up to 32 photos that you could transfer directly to your computer and upload to your awful Geocities home page. For those who could afford one, it was like holding the future of photography in your hands. I mean, yeah, the pictures had the resolution of a postage stamp and the thing only shot in black & white. But in a time where digital cameras are now embedded in practically every gadget you own, you have to give props to the Fotoman. I give it a year before theyre selling replicas of this thing at Urban Outfiters. 3. Motorola DynaTAC 8000x Now, a real dinosaur comes in at #3: the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x -- the first cellular phone anyone could go out and actually buy. Anyone with $4,000, at least. Released in 1984, the DynaTAC offered 30 minutes of talk time and could store a whopping 30 phone numbers. You kids may be surprised to learn this, but in the 80s people used their phones for talking -- like, conversations -- with their mouths. But if you were alive in the 80s, nothing said baller like holding this brick up to your face and acting important. 2. Palm Pilot But if you really want to trace back the paternity of the smartphone in your pocket, look no further than #2: the Palm Pilot. It was Palm that really popularized and defined the idea of the PDA No, gross! -- the Personal Digital Assistant. The Palm Pilot 1000 made its debut in 1996, and with it you could store your calendar appointments, contacts, memos, and a to-do list -- features that are still at the core of any modern smartphone. But the real groundbreaking feature of the Palm Pilot was that you could connect it up to your computer and sync your data. We take it for granted now that our desktop and mobile calendars and contacts all synchronize magically, but it was Palm who was really the first to make that magic happen. Seriously, stop. 1. Web TV (MSN TV) first consumer-electronics device to access the World Wide Web without a personal computer So how do you top the Palm Pilots influence on our mobile- crazed state of technology? Well, coming in at #1: Web TV. Didnt see that one coming did you? Launched in 1996, the Web TV set top box allowed anyone with a phone line to put the Internet on their home TV. The Web TV did more than predict todays current Smart TV trend and the connected living room. It was the first device to grasp that if you remove the complexity of the desktop computer and give people a straightforward way to get online and check their email, you could reach a huge audience. Today, with sales of desktops and laptops falling off, and more people picking up tablets and phones to get online, Web TVs vision for a simpler, more affordable way to jump onto the Web has ultimately won out. CLOSE ---------------- So there you go, five trailblazing technologies that deserve credit for shaping todays gadget-filled landscape. But if you disagree or have some other worthy nominations, you can give me a shout on Twitter, or better yet, head over to Top5.CNET.com, leave a comment and watch some more videos until youre in a proper rage. Im Donald Bell, thanks for watching.
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