Dutch engineer Lou Ottens, who is credited with inventing the audio cassette in the early-1960s, has died.

During his career at Philips as a product manager, Otten brought forth several world-changing innovations in the audio realm.

In 1960, he led a team that developed one of the first portable tape recorders. Three years later he introduced the first cassette tape at a Berlin electronics fair with the slogan: “Smaller than a pack of cigarettes!”

The following decade, Otten proved instrumental to the development of the compact disc.

“We were little boys who had fun playing,” he said of his revolutionary work. “We didn’t feel like we were doing anything big. It was a kind of sport.”

Otten was born on June 21, 1926, in the Netherlands. He showed an interest in engineering at a young age when as a teenager he built a radio that could avoid the jamming technology used by the Nazis during their occupation of his country.

After the war, Ottens got a degree in engineering and began working at the Philips factory in Hasselt, Belgium, in 1952. He gradually rose up the ranks and within eight years he was promoted to head of the company’s new product development department. Within a year he unveiled the first portable tap recorder, which would go on to sell more than a million units.


Two years later, Ottens made his biggest breakthrough amid “irritation about the existing tape recorder”; he developed the cassette tape — an audio storage device that could fit into a jacket pocket.

But Otten was far from finished. In 1979, he led the team that developed the compact disk. He retired seven years later with one regret — not having developed the Walkman, which he called “the ideal application for the cassette.”

Worldwide, more than 100 billion cassette tapes and 200 billion CDs have been sold.


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