Daily Tedium

A Business Card With Impact

How the CD-ROM influenced a particularly tacky variant on the business card around the turn of the 21st century.

By Ernie Smith

Back in 2010, Inc. contributor Josh Spiro made this point about the importance of business cards: “A snazzy card is no good if you hand it out left and right without an exchange of pleasantries and ideas, but a poor quality card can undermine even the best rapport or the most persuasive conversation.”

With this in mind, it only makes sense that someone had the idea of creating a business card that doubled as a CD-ROM. The CD-ROM, as I’ve pointed out numerous times on Tedium, was a bit of a game-changer for obvious reasons, but folks often had a tendency to take things way too far.

And one of the ways they took things too far was by producing miniature CD-ROMs in the shape of a business card. As the Museum of Obsolete Media explains, the cards generally held a fairly miniscule amount of data, less than 100 megabytes, and were an offshoot of the shaped CD, which had gained some interest as a late-90s novelty among rock bands.

It was an idea a lot of companies all had at the same time—for example, Bizemedia in Australia, which produced its own version of the cards around 1999:

These were very much of the era—the kind of tchotchke that you’d pick up at a trade show, look at once, and never use again.

As a 2000 patent for the device explained, the value of the approach was intended an improvement of the business card for the modern day:

There remains a need for another type of business card that provides more information than conventional business cards, in the form of a CD-ROM which is compact in size and can be placed in conventional CD-ROM trays for transmitting information by the CD-ROM player. Such a CD-ROM business card can be used in place of a conventional business card and other materials to convey detailed information about a company or product, such that company information or product data on the CD-ROM may be displayed on a monitor of a PC or for audio transmission on a CD-ROM player.

And that wasn’t even the only patent out there for this basic idea, which doesn’t even work in slot-loaded CD-ROMs—like, y'know, every disc drive built into a Mac since the end of the '90s.

The concept, which is still sold by some CD-R vendors today, was absurd enough that Dilbert parodied it back in 2000—and when you’re being parodied by Scott Adams, you know the idea is bottom of the barrel.

Was this format a good idea even when everyone still had a CD-ROM drive in their computer?

(State Library NC)

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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