Lou Ottens: The Founder Of Cassette Tape

The invention of Ottens- the cassette tape- transformed people’s way of listening to music.

The Dutch engineer, Lou Ottens is credited with the invention of the cassette tape and he played a crucial role in the development of CD. Ottens breathed for the last time on 6th March 2021. The invention of Ottens transformed people’s way of listening to music. After obtaining an engineering degree, in 1952 Ottens began working at the factory of Philips in Belgium’s  Hasselt. He earned a promotion eight years later and emerged as Philip’s head for the newly established department of product development. Ottens was inspired by the large reel-to-reel tapes offering superior quality sound but were perceived as too expensive and clunky. He took this challenge in a stride and shrunk the technology in the 1960s.

Within one year after his promotion, Otttens unveiled the first portable record for Philips named the EL 3585. The first cassette tape was made available to the world in 1963 in a Berlin’s electronic fair and it came with the tagline “Smaller than a pack of cigarettes!”. The invention’s photographs made their path up to Japan, and soon substandard copies began emerging within the nation. Ottens reached an agreement with Sony to follow Philips’ standard mechanism of the tapes. The cassette tape immediately gained popularity across the globe owing to its affordable price and convenience of portability. The invention was a massive hit and more than 100 billion tapes were sold around the world.

The audio cassettes primarily gained popularity amongst the young individuals in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The convenient portability option of the cassette tape enabled music enthusiasts to carry their music wherever they went, and it was perceived as a godsend asset.  In recent years the sale and popularity of cassette tape witnessed a dramatic and unlikely surge. The resurgence of traditional audio technology is driven by an amalgamation of nostalgia with the flexible and tangible format of the tape. As per the records of the Official Charts Company in the UK, the sale of cassette tape increased by 103% in the first quarter of 2020. According to the reports of the US’ Nielsen Music, the sales of cassettes rose by 23% in 2018 in contrast to previous years. In 2020, several musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Lady Gaga, and Selena Gomez gained success by selling cassette tapes. The resurgence of cassettes is once again creating a revolution and we are fortunate to be witnessing it.

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