Ten greatest gadget ideas of the year

Updated: Jan 2 2006, 05:30am hrs
The year 2005 was not a year noted for its tidings of good cheer, and plenty of people were happy to see it go. Still, there were inspiring and gratifying success stories if you knew where to lookand the high-tech industry was one of them. Here they are, the 10 best gadget ideas of 2005:

Folding memory card

After taking a few digital photos, the next step, for most people, is getting them onto the computer. That's possible with the SanDisk Ultra II SD Plus card. It looks just like any other SD memory card, except that it folds on tiny hinges. .

Voice mail VCR

Thanks to Palm for adding VCR-style buttons on the touch screen of its coming Treo 700W cell phone. You just tap Skip, Play, Delete, or whatever.

Bigger -than-TV movie

Most digital still cameras today can also capture video big enough to fill a standard TV screen and smooth enough to simulate standard TV motion. Canon's PowerShot S80 model goes one step further: It can capture videos at even higher resolution (1024 x 768 pixels).

TV a la carte

It took Apple to persuade them to dip a little toe into the internet waters. ABC took the first plunge, offering iPod owners five shows' worth of archives for a perfectly pitched price of $2 eachand no commercials. NBC came next with a broader menu of shows.

Front-side TV connector

Hewlett-Packard's latest microdisplay (rear projection) TV sets solve the problem sweetly and simply: everything plugs into the front. A broad tunnel lets you hand each cable to yourself from the back, an illuminated connection panel makes it easy to see what you're doing at the front.

Outer-button flip phone

The external screen of LG VX8100 identifies the caller and the small buttons just below it are labeled Ignore (let it ring until voice mail picks up) or Dismiss (send it directly and immediately to voice mail).

Free domain name

Microsofts new Office Live online software suite for small businesses, now in testing, will offer a domain name, Web site and e-mail accounts free.

Modular DVD screen

Audiovox has taken a small step toward reducing that redundancy with its Shuttle DVD player. It's a portable, battery-powered DVD player that hangs from the driver's-side headrest.

Family portrait burst mode

Casios digital cameras, in self-timer mode, automatically shoot three consecutive snaps, a fraction of a second apart. You've just tripled your odds of getting one decent shot.

Hybrid high-definition tape

HDTV camcorders from JVC and Sony record on everyday $4 drugstore MiniDV tapes, the same kind used in regular camcorders.