Cassette tape inventor Lou Ottens dies at age 94

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,084   +131
Staff member
The big picture: Lou Ottens worked his way up the ranks at Philips, eventually overseeing the company’s new product R&D division. He led development of the company’s first portable tape recorder, the EL 3585. The success of that machine prompted Philips to create a portable cassette recorder and design their own cassettes, which were created by Ottens.

Dutch engineer and inventor Lou Ottens, best known for inventing the cassette tape, died on March 6. He was 94.

Lodewijk Frederik Ottens was born on June 21, 1926, and exhibited an interest in technical matters at an early age. After World War II, he attended the Delft University of Technology, graduating in 1952 and landing a job with Philips that same year.

The compact cassette was introduced in 1963 and became a staple in the music industry. Cassettes reached peak popularity in the 70s and 80s thanks to their compact size, ease of copying and general durability. Ultimately, they’d give way to the compact disc, an optical disc tech that Philips co-developed with Sony.

Audio cassettes staged a bit of a comeback a few years ago, provoking some to release new hardware for the medium, like this Bluetooth cassette player.

Image courtesy Africa Studio

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Farkinell

Posts: 139   +208
RIP a great innovator.

BUT lets not pretend cassettes were not an absolute pain in the a**! As a child of the 80s I have many memories of jammed tape decks, hissing recordings, unskippable tracks (of which you could do on vinyl as you can see the grooves) and snapped ribbons.

I was so happy when CDs came along, as is the march of technology. I for one, cannot understand this rose-tinted love of this media.
 

Irata

Posts: 1,364   +2,176
RIP a great innovator.

BUT lets not pretend cassettes were not an absolute pain in the a**! As a child of the 80s I have many memories of jammed tape decks, hissing recordings, unskippable tracks (of which you could do on vinyl as you can see the grooves) and snapped ribbons.

I was so happy when CDs came along, as is the march of technology. I for one, cannot understand this rose-tinted love of this media.

Personally, I was quite happy with cassette tapes. Not the album tapes as they used crappy quality tapes, but if you used a good deck with a quality tape sound quality was pretty nice.

And who does not have fond memories of mix tapes and their Walkman.

Yes, they were not trouble free but did their job.
 

Underdog

Posts: 193   +108
I always found the commercial pre-recorded tapes always sounded kinda "flat" and lifeless. My best experience at the time was to record from vinyl (skipping any tracks I didn't like) onto TDK chrome tapes. I shifted tracks so there was a more or less equal length on both sides and then opened it up and trimmed off the excess unused tape. That way I got better sound and didn't have to bother fast forwarding through lots of soundless tape at the end of each side. That got me a decent portable music source that served me well until CDs became available.
I still have a couple of undred tapes that I still play occasionally.
 

3volv3d

Posts: 323   +144
RIP a great innovator.

BUT lets not pretend cassettes were not an absolute pain in the a**! As a child of the 80s I have many memories of jammed tape decks, hissing recordings, unskippable tracks (of which you could do on vinyl as you can see the grooves) and snapped ribbons.

I was so happy when CDs came along, as is the march of technology. I for one, cannot understand this rose-tinted love of this media.

But you could skip tracks on tapes, eventually, albeit in the 90's.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 1,083   +1,032
TechSpot Elite
But you could skip tracks on tapes, eventually, albeit in the 90's.
Oh hell yes I remember that! But I had a Technics deck that did it and that was in the early 80s I'm pretty sure. Anyway, It was built into the deck and it would fast forward until it found dead space between songs and stop there.
 

VariableSpike

Posts: 46   +56
Oh casetttes - particular memories include having to wind them back up after younlent them to your annoying friends, and having to clean the bloody tape read heads constantly on the crap cassette player I had so it would actually work properly - no idea why anyone would want to go back to this format (even through nostalgia) in this day and age, especially as its not like vinyl where the sound quality is any good
 

OneSpeed

Posts: 432   +229
RIP a great innovator.

BUT lets not pretend cassettes were not an absolute pain in the a**! As a child of the 80s I have many memories of jammed tape decks, hissing recordings, unskippable tracks (of which you could do on vinyl as you can see the grooves) and snapped ribbons.

I was so happy when CDs came along, as is the march of technology. I for one, cannot understand this rose-tinted love of this media.
Let's not forget the inventor who made the analog numbers roll up (and back) to the spot where you think the tape should be for which your tune started from.
 

OortCloud

Posts: 581   +433
Yes they were a bit awkward, but cassette tapes were fantastic in car stereos. Used to love listening to my favourite albums very loud in my car on my long daily commutes. RIP.
 

Farkinell

Posts: 139   +208
But you could skip tracks on tapes, eventually, albeit in the 90's.

What, really?! This is the first I've heard of this feature. I guess cheap(ish) CD players started to appear in the 90s, which made buying new cassette players redundant.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,001   +6,775
RIP a great innovator.

BUT lets not pretend cassettes were not an absolute pain in the a**! As a child of the 80s I have many memories of jammed tape decks, hissing recordings, unskippable tracks (of which you could do on vinyl as you can see the grooves) and snapped ribbons.

I was so happy when CDs came along, as is the march of technology. I for one, cannot understand this rose-tinted love of this media.

Oh you didn't see ANYTHING until you had to fight those same issues with an 8 track tape!
 

3volv3d

Posts: 323   +144
What, really?! This is the first I've heard of this feature. I guess cheap(ish) CD players started to appear in the 90s, which made buying new cassette players redundant.

I found CD walkmans a pain in the *** when cycling or running, tapes not so much. I had a lovely blue philips I think, which like the other fella said, you forward and it finds the gap between the songs and plays from there, you could be stuck if you recorded the tape yourself and didn't leave a gap it could distinguish.
And personally I didn't chew tapes as often with newer walkmans.
Actually I did have a CD walkman for a bit after that, carried quite a few CDs around with me in a decent CD case, but changing often still gave them light scratches. Mini disc skipped, then Sony Vaio .mp3 player. Pricey and the touch pad for the LCD screen failed, and I couldn't replace it.
 

arrowflash

Posts: 327   +347
I found CD walkmans a pain in the *** when cycling or running, tapes not so much. I had a lovely blue philips I think, which like the other fella said, you forward and it finds the gap between the songs and plays from there, you could be stuck if you recorded the tape yourself and didn't leave a gap it could distinguish.
And personally I didn't chew tapes as often with newer walkmans.
Actually I did have a CD walkman for a bit after that, carried quite a few CDs around with me in a decent CD case, but changing often still gave them light scratches. Mini disc skipped, then Sony Vaio .mp3 player. Pricey and the touch pad for the LCD screen failed, and I couldn't replace it.

I never had portable CD players because of all the problems with skipping and scratches. I would convert my CDs to tape for listening on the move and used casette walkmans until late 2002, when I purchased my first portable MP3 player.
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,617   +694
Lou Ottens invents the cassette tape.

60 years later...
Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette tape has died.

Is this all we get? Any chance a record of his life was on tape?

It is typical of these types of news stories. A note in history.
 
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Danny101

Posts: 1,617   +694
Played them all. (Showing my age. )Records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD's, MP3 (my favorite), and now streaming. MP3 and derivatives is the best of the lot of music technology I think. Streaming is good for finding new music. Although, I confess, I'm haven't searched for new music in a long time.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 295   +243
Recorded cassettes , like recorded videos were put on substandard media - In my travels I use HQ C120 tapes - for the time much quieter background , better dynamics in my sony yellow sports walkman - also had better axels or whatever they were called - so never over tightened or stretch the tape - for travel tapes - used to record to just red lining - Then the clean sound of minidiscs - obviously a later MP3 player would of given me more songs for volume - The other thing we didn't have was noise cancelling headphones - so Classical music - was a problem due to it's dynamic nature .
Plus when younger kind of fun taping of radio , hitting record and play as fast as possible.
 
The cassette tapes had their problems but they saved us from the 8 track tapes that were awful. Most of them after a short time of owning one (especially one installed in your car) needed a book of matches or something like that wedged in between the tape player and the cartridge. The cassette tape was a good step up from that.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 804   +1,137
The cassette tape, and VHS tapes, are both pretty incredible pieces of technology, both in and of themselves and the revolutions in media that they fostered. Alas, that pioneers like Lou Ottens are coming fewer and farther between.