• January 31, 2023

Lou Ottens, Inventor Of The Cassette Tape, Has Died : NPR

A Philips cassette is shown in 1965. Lou Ottens, who led the invention of the first cassette, has died at the age of 94. Alfred Assmann / Picture Alliance via Getty Images hide subtitles

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Alfred Assmann / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Philips cassette is shown in 1965. Lou Ottens, who led the invention of the first cassette, died at the age of 94.

Alfred Assmann / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Lou Ottens, who led music lovers around the world to playlists and mixtapes by spearheading the invention of the first cassette, died at the age of 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.

According to the Dutch news agency, Ottens died last Saturday NRC Handelsbladlisting his age as 94.

The cassette was Ottens’ answer to the large tapes, which provided high quality sound but were considered too clunky and expensive. He took up the challenge of shrink tape technology in the early 1960s when he became Head of New Product Development in Hasselt, Belgium for Dutch technology company Philips.

“Lou wanted music to be portable and accessible,” says documentary filmmaker Zack Taylor, who spent days with Ottens on Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape.

Ottens’ goal was to make something easy and affordable for everyone. As Taylor says, “He advocated that Philips license this new format to other manufacturers free of charge to pave the way for cartridges to become a global standard.”

But first he had to invent it. Ottens tried to imagine something that didn’t already exist and used a block of wood that was small and thin enough to fit in his pocket as a target for the future of tape recording and playback.

Cassette tapes gave music fans a new level of control, allowing them to create and share their own collections of songs in a cheap and easily portable format. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images Hide caption

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Cassette tapes gave music fans a new level of control, allowing them to create and share their own collections of songs in a cheap and easily portable format.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The result was presented to the world in 1963, and the so-called “compact cassette” quickly picked up speed: It was “a sensation” from the start, said Ottens time 2013 for the 50th anniversary of the cassette.

Born in 1926, Ottens built a radio for his family during World War II – allegedly with a directional antenna so that he could concentrate on radio signals despite the Nazis’ attempts to interfere – and developed technologies that would democratize music.

“Tapes taught us how to use our voices, even if the message came from someone else’s songs carefully put together on a mixtape,” said Taylor. Describing how little has changed, he added, “So the next time you create the perfect playlist on Spotify or send a link to share a song, you can thank Lou Ottens.”

Ottens was notoriously unsentimental about the invention, which, according to the NRC, made around 100 billion sales. In a career devoted to finding higher fidelity and advancing technology, he dismissed tapes as primitive. prone to noise and distortion.

Cassette mix tapes have always been a favorite of punk and rock fans. But their legacy also plays a big part in hip-hop, where aspiring rappers and producers have used the approach to demonstrate their ability to hack up other music and create something new. The mixtape ethos has survived and even thrived despite the switch from magnetic tape to CDs and digital formats.

Almost 20 years after Philips introduced cassettes, Ottens helped the company develop CD technology for the consumer market and, with Sony, decided on a format that would become the industry standard.

“The conventional turntable is now obsolete,” Ottens said when production CD players hit the market the BBC reported.

Similar predictions were made about the cassette. However, interest in the format has increased in recent years, despite the reshaping of the music industry in the digital and streaming age.

The resurgence is being driven by a mixture of nostalgia and an appreciation for the unique status of tapes as a tangible but flexible format. For decades, music fans have used mixtapes to curate and share their favorite songs. Unsigned bands have also relied on them to promote their music.

For many, tapes have retained their iconic status because they fulfill the double promise of being both affordable and personal. You can record anything from a carefully sequenced lineup of rare recordings to kids putting on their own radio show.

“It’s the most accessible, easiest, and cheapest way for anyone to record a piece of audio,” said Matthew David of Leaving Records said NPR in 2011, when cassettes also experienced a renaissance.

Cassettes have also become collectibles. When Raekwon’s solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx … hit the market in 1995, it arrived in a rare purple-colored band that became both a cultural touchstone and a hotly wanted article.

Ottens’ death follows a banner year for his invention. A wide range of musicians in 2020 Found success selling cassette tapes, from Lady Gaga to Ozzy Osbourne and from Selena Gomez to Gorillaz.

Jack

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