Lou Ottens — the Inventor of the Cassette Tape — Dead at 94
The engineer also played a huge role in developing the compact disc
Published Mar 10, 2021Lou Ottens — the inventor who gave the world the cassette tape — has died. According to various news reports, the influential engineer, who also helped develop the compact disc, died in his home on Saturday (March 7) in Belgium. He was 94.
Beginning his career at Philips in 1952, Ottens invented the audio cassette tape as an alternative to the incredibly hefty and impractical reel-to-reel, aiming to provide high-quality sound in a compact and affordable package. When the first cassette tape was presented at an electronics fair in 1963, it came with the slogan "smaller than a pack of cigarettes!"
As DutchNews.nl reports, Ottens would later explain, "I got annoyed with the clunky, user-unfriendly reel-to-reel system, it's that simple."
Ottens set about to make a format that was both simple and affordable, and he advocated for Philips to license the cassette tape to various manufacturers for free — a move that helped kickstart the worldwide rise of the format.
In addition to the cassette, Ottens played a big role in developing the compact disc, with Philips teaming up with Sony to later make the CD the worldwide format.
"From now on, the conventional record player is obsolete," Ottens at one point declared when the production of CD players emerged [via the BBC].
And while Ottens wasn't exactly correct about that, he was justified in saying "nothing could beat the sound of a CD" — a sound quality that streaming services are still trying to match all these decades later.