Lou Ottens, Philips engineer responsible for creation of cassette tape, dies at 94

Dutch engineer spent WWII youth using his skills to build a radio that would bypass Nazi signal jamming & later invented the cassette tape.

Dan Verbin ,


Lou Ottens, a Dutch engineer who invented the cassette tape and spent his wartime youth constructing a radio featuring directional antenna used to listen to banned BBC broadcasts jammed by the occupying Nazi army, has died at ninety-four.

Ottens displayed a talent for technology at a young age. After studying mechanical engineering at the university, the future activist went to work for Philips, becoming head of product development at the corporation. It was there that he had an idea that would transform the way the world listens to music "on the go."

Ottens invented the cassette tape to improve upon the design of the era's reel-to-reel players. While these outdated machines produced high quality sound, they were the opposite of the miniaturized music players people began to take for granted only years later. Bulky and impractical, Ottens grew frustrated with the reel-to-reel player's inadequate portability, and envisioned a cassette tape small enough to fit easily into a jacket pocket.

The cassette tape made its debut in 1963 at a Berlin electronics fair under the slogan: "Smaller than a pack of cigarettes."

Ottens was also later influential in Philips' development of the compact disc and other related technology.