Ongoing History Daily: RIP Lou Ottens

Back in February, Lou Ottens died at the age of 94. If you’ve ever made an old-school mixtape, you owe everything to him. Ottens was an engineer at Phillips, the Dutch electronics company.

In the early 60s, he set out to miniaturize magnetic recording tape into a format that anyone could use. The result was formally known as the Compact Cassette, which made its debut at an electronics show in Berlin in 1963.

But Phillips wasn’t alone in working on this new technology. It wasn’t until Sony strongarmed Phillips into licensing the new tape format for free that it achieved critical mass in the marketplace. Pre-recorded cassettes started behind sold in 1965.

Cassettes sold as well as CDs until the early 90s—over 100 million were sold—but then began a big, big decline to almost zero sales today.

If you missed Thursday’s post, it was all about the last 78 RPM records ever produced.

And don’t forget to check out my podcast The Ongoing History of New Music where you listen on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogleStitcher, or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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