In the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music became something “pocket-sized” and most young people loved listening to their favourite singers and bands thanks to a plastic box, better known as a walkman, to take with them anytime and everywhere. 

The Dutch Lou Ottens, the revolutionary inventor of the cassette tape, a few days ago, at the age of 94, said goodbye to the whole world in his home in the Netherlands. 

Probably in today’s society where everything changes quickly and where everything has been digitized, it could be difficult to highlightenjoy and appreciate something revolutionary for the time that was created by Ottens, but still today there are those who love collecting pieces that have been part of history. 

Lou Ottens has been defined as an “extraordinary man who loved technology” and precisely for this reason he managed to transform music into an art accessible to all and easily carried in people’s jacket pocket. With Ottens the whole world has been able to play music in a completely different way and record it in a more convenient and simple way. 

The Dutch-born engineer joined the Dutch technology company Philips in 1952 and a few years later was promoted to head of research and development department. Here, guiding and engaging the members of his team, he started the study and research for the creation of the world’s first portable recorder. A few years later, in 1963, the first plastic cassette tape created by Ottens was presented at the Internationale Funkausstellung, the technology fair held in Berlin. The launch of the revolutionary new device was followed by the slogan “smaller than a pack of cigarettes”. Since then, more than 100 billion units have been sold worldwide. The first prototype of the new audio device was made of wood material. 

In 2013, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the cassette tape, the Philips Museum organized a special exhibition dedicated to Lou Ottens and his extraordinary invention that changed forever the way people listened to music. The first ever cassette recorder is still on display as a “testimony to his foresight and innovation” at the museum in the Netherlands. 

Lou Ottens work did not stop only at the cassette and in fact he made an important contribution by collaborating with the Sony company for the development and creation of compact disc technology, or CDs, which soon took the place of vinyl and cassette.