Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette tape, dies at 94

South China Morning Post by DPA

Posted at Mar 12 2021 04:24 PM | Updated as of Mar 12 2021 05:17 PM

Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette tape, dies at 94 1
This file picture shows Dutch Lodewijk Frederik Ottens - called Lou Ottens - the inventor of the cassette tape, posing during a photo session in Eindhoven, on January 23, 2013. Lou Ottens died at the age of 94 few on March 6, 2021. Jerry Lampen, Agence France-Presse

Lou Ottens, the Dutch engineer who heralded a new age for music fans by inventing the cassette, has died at the age of 94 in his hometown of Duizel in the southeastern Netherlands.

The company Philips, for whom Ottens developed the compact cassette in 1963, confirmed his death on Thursday.

His invention completely overhauled the music market, and he later also contributed to the invention of the CD.

“Lou was a special man,” Olga Coolen, head of the Philips museum in Eindhoven, said. “He loved technology, also the humble beginnings of his inventions.”

Ottens started showing an interest for audio devices as a child.

During the German occupation in World War II, he crafted a radio to be able to listen to the underground free station Radio Oranje with his parents. The device was equipped with a special antennas to avoid German jamming transmitters.

After the war, he became an engineer at the electronics firm Philips, which made him head of product development in 1960.

In 1963 he presented the first cassette at an electronics fair.

He had cut out a piece of wood that could fit into his breast pocket and established his new invention should not be larger than that. “The compact cassette was actually invented out of spite against the tape recorder, easy as that,” Ottens later said.

The incredible success of his invention surprised him, according to museum director Coolen. “More than 100 billion were sold worldwide,” she said.

The cassette dominated the music market for decades, as most households owned at least one cassette recorder or Walkman – until Ottens himself contributed to the downfall of its invention.

Together with his team, he helped invent the CD, which he actually thought to be the better invention, according to an article by newspaper NRC Handelsblad.