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Size Doesn’t Matter: The Short-Lived 3″ CD

U2′s “Angel of Harlem” was released as a 3″ CD in 1988

Was there ever a music format more doomed for obscurity than the 3” CD? Also known as mini CDs and CD3s, these short-lived (at least in the music industry) compact discs were marketed as a smaller and more convenient alternative to the standard 5” CDs. Not surprisingly, they never caught on with consumers, but they make for a cool collector’s piece today.

During the 3” CD’s short reign, which lasted from the late ‘80s until the mid ‘90s, popular artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince all released singles on the format.

The mini CD’s inherent flaw was its relative unnecessity. While the 8-track tapes of the ‘70s and ‘80s were smaller, more portable and easier to play in cars than 12” vinyl records (with cassettes and 5” CDs being a natural progression of this idea), no one was really asking for smaller compact discs. If you’re going to carry around a CD player, you might as well listen to CDs that can play 80 minutes of audio over those that only hold 24 minutes.

Well, maybe David of 3inchcd.com wouldn’t have minded if the format survived. The collector, who is probably the world’s foremost expert on 3” CDs, has hundreds of the miniature CDs and kindly alphabetized them for his website. He claims that if he lined up all of his mini CDs, they would span 164 feet.

That means he wouldn’t notice if I borrowed those three R.E.M singles from his collection, right?


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