Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette tape, has died
Lou Ottens, who invented the cassette tape, has died at age 94. NPR reports:
Lou Ottens, who put music-lovers around the world on a path toward playlists and mixtapes by leading the invention of the first cassette tape, has died at age 94, according to media reports in the Netherlands. Ottens was a talented and influential engineer at Philips, where he also helped develop consumer compact discs.
Ottens died last Saturday, according to the Dutch news outlet NRC Handelsblad, which lists his age as 94.
The cassette tape was Ottens' answer to the large reel-to-reel tapes that provided high-quality sound but were seen as too clunky and expensive. He took on the challenge of shrinking tape technology in the early 1960s, when he became the head of new product development in Hasselt, Belgium, for the Dutch-based Philips technology company.
"Lou wanted music to be portable and accessible," says documentary filmmaker Zack Taylor, who spent days with Ottens for his film, Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape.
Ottens' goal was to make something simple and affordable for anyone to use. As Taylor says, "He advocated for Philips to license this new format to other manufacturers for free, paving the way for cassettes to become a worldwide standard."
[...] True to their do-it-yourself roots, cassette mixtapes have long been a favorite of punk and rock fans. But their legacy also looms large in hip-hop, where aspiring rappers and producers have used the approach to showcase their ability to chop up other music and create something new. The mixtape ethos has survived, and even thrived, despite the move from magnetic tape to CDs and digital formats.
Cassettes also of course became a staple of the jam band community, as bands like the Grateful Dead would allow you to tape their shows and trade tapes with fans. You can read much more about Ottens and his famous invention at NPR.
Though cassettes aren't as omnipresent today as they once were, they have been making a comeback in niche markets over the past few years. Cassette Store Day has become an annual thing, and just last week, a cassette reissue of Nirvana's Bleach sold out in less than 24 hours.
Rest in peace, Lou Ottens. You forever changed the way we listen, record, and share music.