In these digital days, it may be troublesome to understand how Lou Ottens radically modified the audio world when, in 1963, he and his staff at Philips, the Dutch electronics firm, launched the cassette.
“Because the story goes, Lou was dwelling one evening attempting to hearken to a reel-to-reel recording when the free tape started to unravel from his reel,” mentioned Zack Taylor, who directed the 2017 movie “Cassette: A Mixtape Documentary”, he mentioned by e mail.
Ottens was accountable for product growth on the Philips plant in Hasselt, Belgium, on the time.
“The subsequent morning,” he continued. Taylor, “a annoyed Lou Ottens introduced collectively the engineers and designers of the Philips audio division and insisted that they create one thing infallible: the field needed to be closed, and the participant needed to put it in his pocket jacket.”
The cassette was a option to play music in a conveyable method, one thing that doesn’t get straightforward with vinyl, and to report it comfortably too. Artists have begun utilizing cassettes to report passing concepts. Bootleggers used them to report stay live shows for the underground market. Younger lovers used them to change mixtapes of songs expressing their emotions.
Quickly report labels started releasing whole albums on cassettes and automobile producers put in cassette gamers on dashboards.
One other transportable know-how, the most important 8-track cartridge, was launched in the identical interval, however the cassettes, smaller and recordable, shortly condemned these gadgets, and even reduce them within the vinyl market.
“It was a giant shock for the market,” Mr. Ottens advised Time journal in 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of this portfolio dimension discovery. “It was so small in comparison with coil recorders that it was a sensation on the time.”
Ottens died Saturday in Duizel, the Netherlands, mentioned Tommie Dijstelbloem, Philips spokesman. He was 94 years outdated.
Within the Seventies, after main the event of the cassette, he contributed to the event of the compact disc, a product Philips and Sony collectively developed in 1982. The brand new format quickly pushed the cassette apart.
“The very best factor concerning the historical past of compact cassettes,” wrote the Nederlands Dagblad newspaper in 2011, “is that its inventor additionally precipitated its downfall.”
Not likely. Cassettes stay fashionable amongst some fans, in a retro method. Nonetheless, Mr. Ottens was not certainly one of them.
“Now it’s nostalgia, roughly,” he mentioned within the documentary. “Individuals favor a worse high quality of sound to nostalgia.”
Lodewijk Frederik Ottens was born in Bellingwolde, the Netherlands, on June 21, 1926. He graduated from what’s now Delft College of Know-how with a level in mechanical engineering and commenced working at Philips within the 1952.
He turned head of product growth at Hasselt in 1957 and commenced overseeing the event of a conveyable coil winding machine in 1960. Olga Coolen, director of on the Philips Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, he mentioned that when he conceived the concept of a field, he carried a block of wooden in his coat pocket which was the dimensions and form of what he supposed.
“His prototype wood block was misplaced when Lou used it to assist his jack whereas altering a flat tire,” he mentioned by e mail. “Nonetheless, we nonetheless have the primary cassette recorder he developed on show, a testomony to his foresight and innovation.”
The corporate unveiled the field in 1963 at a product present in Berlin. The outdated saying that imitation is essentially the most honest type of play was instantly demonstrated.
“Our tape has been broadly seen and photographed by the Japanese,” Mr. Ottens advised an interviewer in 2013. “Just a few years later, the primary Japanese imitations got here, with a distinct cassette format, completely different sizes, completely different enjoying time. Not stunning, however they got here to the market an excessive amount of. Then it turned a giant mess. “.
Philips has made its licenses accessible freed from cost, largely on the invitation of Mr. Ottens, and his boxed model quickly turned the usual.
“That’s why it didn’t change into out of date too quickly,” he mentioned. Ottens within the movie, “and it took 50 years to die.”
Philips says 100 billion cassettes have been offered worldwide.
Behind the tape, Mr. Ottens labored on an unsuccessful videodisc challenge earlier than transferring on to the CD. And earlier than the innovation was launched, it had shifted its focus to Video 2000, a system designed to compete with VHS; she, too, didn’t perceive.
He retired from Philips in 1986. Info on his survivors was not instantly accessible.
The producers of “Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape” have taken a romanticized view of the cassette and its significance to the numerous individuals who have used it in a myriad of how, however Mr. Taylor mentioned that Mr. Ottens had a way more utilitarian imaginative and prescient.
“Lou has by no means been snug taking credit score for the cassette, or for the incalculable impression it has had on the historical past of music,” Mr. Taylor mentioned. “What I noticed as a deeply private medium, Lou noticed as a realistic response to the cumbersome nature of reel-to-reel.”
Within the movie, Mr. Ottens and three of the boys who labored underneath him on the cassette challenge keep in mind him. Mr. Ottens all the time appears shocked by the impression of the little gizmo.
“We anticipated it to be successful,” he says, “however not a revolution.”