The Man Who brought us the Cassette Tape, Lou Ottens, has Passed Away
If you're under the age of 35, you probably don't know a whole lot about the cassette tape. In the days before streaming, or even CD's, the cassette was the primary way for us to listen to our music. I still own about sixty or so cassette tapes, including some mix tapes, that still work and sound great. I was sad to run across this article that the inventor of the cassette tape, Lou Ottens, passed away on March 6.
Lou Ottens has an interesting story. He was born June 21, 1926, and showed an early interest in engineering. As a teenager, he built a radio that had what he called a "Germanenfilter" that could avoid the radio jammers used by the Nazi's. He went on to get an engineering degree and started working at the Philips factory in Belgium in 1952.
In 1960, Ottens was promoted to lead Philips' new development department. It was here that he invented the world's first portable tape recorder. In 1962, Ottens introduced the cassette tape. “The cassette tape was invented out of irritation about the existing tape recorder, it’s that simple,” Ottens said. He wanted something that would fit in his inside jacket pocket.
In 1972, Ottens was promoted to audio director at Philips NatLab. It was here that he worked with the team that invented the next evolution of music listening, the compact disc, better known as the CD. Over their life span, the cassette sold over one hundred billion and the CD sold over two hundred billion worldwide.
I remember in the early 90's taking my CD's and recording them onto cassette to listen to in the car. Car CD players were pretty expensive then. I also made many mix tapes with a variety of my favorite songs on. I even used those mixtapes to pretend I was a radio disc jockey introducing the song. I still have a ton of my cassettes and a few of those mixtapes.
Lou Ottens passed away March 6, 2021, at the age of 94. Thank you Lou for helping provide the soundtrack of my youth.