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(Credit: Jordi Huisman)


Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette tape, has died


The Dutch inventor of the cassette tape, Lou Ottens, has passed away at the age of 94. The designer died last Saturday on March 6th; Ottens’ daughter Arine has since confirmed the news to WTOP.

The Dutchman, who was born in 1926, first started working in music after beginning to work as head of the product development department at Dutch-based technology giants Philips in 1960. Ottens went on to play a crucial role at the company; for the Berlin Radio Show electronics fair in 1963, he developed the analogue magnetic tape recording format for recording and playback as well as introducing the first compact cassette tape.

The invention was a breakthrough moment in how we consume music. It immediately changed made listening to music more accessible than ever before. The cassette tape was the first step on it, becoming a reality of listening to music freely on the go due to the miniature size of cassettes.

This wasn’t his only revolutionary act. In 1979 Ottens helped Philips create a durable version of the compact disc, which would be even more accessible and extraordinary than the cassette.

Ottens retired in 1986; however, his legacy continues to live on, with the cassette tape making a renaissance in the United Kingdom. Last year, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) shared their cassette sales for 2020 and revealed that 157,000 tapes were sold in the UK by the end of 2020, despite two national coronavirus lockdowns that have forced independent record shops to close. 

The figures show that 2020 has been the best 12 month period for cassette sales in the UK for seventeen years. Firm proof that a good idea will never go out of fashion.