Lodewijk Frederik Ottens was born in Bellingwolde, Netherlands, June 21, 1926. He was always interested in electronics, even constructing a radio during World War II to secretly listen to the Radio Oranje broadcasts which consisted of brief commentaries on current affairs and political speeches,
as well as news on the Free Dutch forces (Dutch military fighting against Nazi Germany). He created a directional antenna to avoid Nazi jammers. After the war he attended Delft University of Technology studying mechanical engineering. He also worked as an drafting technician for and x-ray technology factory.
In 1952 he was hired by Philips and started in the mechanization department. In 1957 he transferred to Hasselt, Belgium where he became the head of new product division where he led the development of Philips’ first portable tape recorder, the EL 3585 which sold over a million units.
In 1962, he invented the compact cassette to simplify the process of reel to reel recorders. He cut a block of wood, that would fit in his jacket pocket, which he used as the model as the size of the first portable cassette recorder. By 1963 it was presented at a trade show in Berlin and the Japanese guests soon copied it for companies such as Sony.
I wrote the song ‘Satisfaction’ in my sleep. I didn’t know at all that I had recorded it, the song only exists thank God to the little Philips cassette recorder. I looked at it in the morning — I knew I had put a new tape in the night before — but it was at the very end. Apparently, I had recorded something. I rewound and then ‘Satisfaction’ sounded … and then 40 minutes of snoring.Keith Richards, Rolling Stones
In 1972, Ottens became technical director of Philips Main Industry Group Audio who would begin development on what would be the compact disc. By 1978, the development of the CD was well under way, way before the cassette hit it’s 1980’s peak.
When your time has gone, it’s time to disappear. If there are better products than the cassette, then you move on. I don’t believe in eternity.Lou Ottens on developing the Compact Disc
Lou retired from Phillips in 1985, remaining active he became chairman of the Dutch Association for Logistics Management in 1988. He died at the age of 94 in Duizel, Netherlands, on March 6, 2021.