Next time you stream a song on Spotify or Apple Music, think of pioneer Lou Ottens — who is credited with advancing music forever with the creation of the cassette tape, but also helped with the invention of CDs.
Ottens took on the task of creating the cassette tape as an answer to the large reel-to-reel tapes, which provided high-quality sound but were viewed as too big and too expensive for everyday use, when he became the head of product development for the Dutch-based Philips technology company.
“Lou wanted music to be portable and accessible,” said documentary filmmaker Zack Taylor, who spent many days with Ottens during the filming of his movie, Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape, according to NPR. "He advocated for Philips to license this new format to other manufacturers for free, paving the way for cassettes to become a worldwide standard."
The cassette tape was unveiled to the world in 1963 and was a “sensation” from the start, Ottens told Time in 2013 on the 50th anniversary of the invention.
In the 1970s, Ottens helped introduce the compact disc (CD), a co-creation of Philips and Japanese electronics producer Sony, which made its public debut in 1982.
Cassette tapes have been experiencing an unlikely surge in popularity recently. At the end of last year, it was revealed that cassette sales more than doubled in the U.K. in 2020, despite the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. The British Phonographic Industry estimated that 157,000 tapes were sold in the U.K.
That’s the highest number sold since 2003, when compilation Now 54 — with artists such as Oasis and S Club 7 and songs like Nelly's hit single “Dilemma,” featuring Kelly Rowland — was the biggest seller on tape. The best-selling cassettes of 2020 were Lady Gaga's Chromatica, 5 Seconds of Summer's CALM and Yungblud's second album release, Weird.