Lou Ottens, credited with inventing the audio cassette tape, passed away at the age of 94 at his home in the Netherlands on Mar. 6. The Dutch engineer also played an instrumental role in the development of the world’s first CD.
Ottens joined Philips in 1952 and was promoted to head of the company’s product development department eight years later. In 1962, he made the biggest breakthrough of his life: the cassette tape. “The cassette tape was invented out of irritation about the existing tape recorder. It’s that simple,” he said. It was unveiled a year later at an electronics fair in Berlin. Ottens then made an agreement with Sony for the Philips tapes to be the standard, and mixtapes soon became widespread across the globe.
Ottens continued his partnership with Sony, which resulted in the 12-cm Philips-Sony CD standard in the 1980s. According to The Guardian, more than 100 billion cassette tapes and 200 billion CDs have been sold. When asked about the renewed interest in cassette tapes and vinyl records, Ottens said, “Nothing can match the sound of the CD. It is absolutely free of noise and rumble. That never worked with tape. I have made a lot of record players, and I know that the distortion with vinyl is much higher. I think people mainly hear what they want to hear.”
Ottens leaves behind an everlasting musical legacy. “Lou was an extraordinary man who loved technology,” Philips Museum Director Olga Coolen said. Filmmaker Zack Taylor said, “Next time you make that perfect playlist on Spotify or send a link to share a song, you can thank Lou Ottens.”
Chris Hong Copy Editor
1. What did Lou Ottens invent?
2. What was Ottens' reason for inventing the cassette tape?
3. What did Ottens have to say about the renewed interest in cassette tapes and vinyl records?
1. Do you think Ottens' legacy is commonly known amongst the general public?
2. Do you agree with Ottens about the renewed interest in cassette tapes and vinyl records?
3. Just like cassette tapes and vinyl records, do you think CDs will receive renewed interest in the near future?
4. When was the last time you played a CD?