He headed the team that invented the cassette tape and helped create the CD. “It was a kind of sport,” confided Lou Ottens, the Dutch engineer who died this Tuesday at the age of 94.
Lou Ottens, the main person responsible for the invention of the cassette, died this Tuesday at the age of 94 in Duizel, in the Netherlands, advances the BBC. The Dutch engineer, who revolutionized the way music is heard, also participated in the development of the CD.
His interest in engineering and music started early. At the time of the Second World War, Ottens managed to create a system (the one he called the “German filter”) that allowed his parents to listen to the BBC radio program “Radio Oranje”, whose transmission was prohibited at the time of the occupation the Netherlands.
When the war ended, Ottens took an engineering degree and started working at Philips at the Hasselt plant in Belgium in 1952, reports The Guardian. Eight years later he is promoted and assumes the position of coordinator of the department of development of innovative products, has become the main responsible for the invention of the cassette.
Ottens describes that the audio cassette arose out of “irritation” due to the impracticality of the bonina to bonina recording systems. And another objective that Philips wanted to aim for with this invention was to make the cassette fit “in the pocket of the coat”.
The tape was a success. Since 1963, more than 100 billion tapes have been sold, according to the BBC. The invention was revolutionary at the time: it allowed you to listen to music anywhere, it is also possible to choose the order of the songs and even record them in the way that suits everyone – a big difference compared to vinyl records.
It was a “sensation”, described Ottens to Time magazine as part of the 50th anniversary of the invention of the cassette. In 1982, however, he came to advocate the death of the tapes: “Conventional recorders are obsolete” – and the Dutchman contributed to that. Since 1980 he has led the compact disc (CD) development team, in a partnership that Philips has made with Sony. “Nothing compares to the sound of the CD,” he admitted in an interview with the newspaper NRC Handelsblad.
In 1986, Ottens retired from his position at Philips. Asked about the impact that his inventions had, the Dutchman was always very modest: “We were just boys who had fun”, who had no idea that “they were doing something great. It was a kind of sport ”. “It wasn’t a big event at the time,” he added.
There was, however, a regret that was in the years he was at Philips – the fact that the company did not bet on a cassette player like the Walkman: “It still hurts”, he confided.