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Lou Ottens, the engineer who invented the audio cassette tape, has died aged 94.
The Dutch pioneer passed away in his hometown of Duizel last weekend, his family announced on Tuesday, March 9.
In 1960, after working at Philips for eight years, Ottens became the head of the product development department for its Hasselt division. Together with his team, they developed the cassette tape – a piece of technology that would go on to change the world.
Initially, they created the Philips EL 3585, a portable tape recorder. However, Ottens was frustrated with how clumsy it was, going on to condense the technology into something far more usable and appealing.
Three years later, he finally presented the compact cassette tape at the Berlin Radio electronics fair where it quickly became a worldwide success, advertised as being ‘smaller than a pack of cigarettes.’ Soon after, compact cassette tape was trademarked and a player was developed to roll them out.
Earlier speaking about cassettes to TIME for the invention’s 50th anniversary, Ottens said the tapes were a ‘sensation’ from the beginning.
In later years, he’d go on to assist Philips and Sony with their development of the compact disc, a groundbreaking new medium that made ‘traditional record players obsolete,’ according to Ottens. While 100 billion cassette tapes have been sold since their inception, more than 200 billion CDs have been sold worldwide.
However, cassettes aren’t completely dead these days. Many artists still release their music on tapes as part of limited edition releases, often accompanying a ‘premium’ vinyl package. In the first half of 2020, cassette tape sales were up by 103% compared to the same period the year prior.
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