Lou Ottens Wiki – Biography
A Dutch engineer and inventor, best known for inventing the tape and being involved in the development of the CD, Ottens was employed by Philips throughout his career.
Ottens was born on June 21, 1926 in Bellingwolde. Ottens showed an interest in technology and tinkering from an early age. In his young age, during World War II, he made a radio that he would use to eavesdrop on Radio Oranje broadcasts. To avoid Nazi jammers, Ottens built the radio with a primitive directional antenna. After the war, Ottens began attending Delft University of Technology where he studied mechanical engineering. While studying at university, Ottens worked part-time as a drawing technician at an X-ray technology factory. He graduated in 1952.
Lou Ottens Age
He Was 94 Year Old
Lou Ottens Career & Death Cause
In 1952, Ottens was hired by Philips. It started in the mechanization department of the Main Industrial Group in Eindhoven. In 1957, he was transferred to a newly opened Philips factory in Hasselt, Belgium. At that time, this factory was mainly producing audio equivalents, including turntables, recorders, and loudspeakers.
1960–1969: Product Development Manager at Philips Hasselt
In 1960, Ottens took over the new product development department in Hasselt. While in this position, he pioneered the development of the EL 3585, Philips’ first portable recorder. This project has been quite successful, with over 1 million sold.
Building on the success of the EL 3585, Philips Hasselt began work on development plans for a portable cassette recorder. The goal of this “pocket recorder”, nicknamed it, was to be cheap and small, with low battery consumption but reasonable sound quality. Initially Philips planned to work with RCA and use the cassette system, but Ottens found that the dimensions and tape speed of the set were not suitable for the desired product.
Philips eventually decided to develop his own tape, taking the RCA’s tape as its starting point. Ottens began his cassette design by cutting a block of wood to fit in his jacket pocket. This wooden block would be the model of the EL 3300, the first portable cassette recorder.
Ottens led a team of ten or twelve employees with experience in designing gramophones and tapes to develop the tape and its equipment. In developing the tape, the group often used resources and information from the nearby Eindhoven location.
In 1961 Philips decided to introduce the cassette system to the public at IFA Berlin. This promotion did not reach very large audiences immediately and did not cause much interest amongst those in the sound world. However, some photographs of the system were taken, which would later be used in the production of Japanese copies of the Ottens system, which were larger than the original.
1969–1972: Director of Philips Hasselt
In 1969, Ottens became Director of Philips Hasselt. In line with its instructions, the Hasselt factory would focus primarily on producing Philips tape systems as the popularity of general compact cassettes increased. With the increasing demand for compact cassettes, Philips Hasselts grew even more and reached over 5000 employees.
1972-1979: Philips Audio Director
In 1972, Ottens became technical director of Philips Main Industry Group Audio. While in this position, Ottens realized that the laser technology researched for video recordings at Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (NatLab) could also be used to make improvements in the sound field. With non-contact laser reading for sound, the wear problem common to vinyl records and tapes would no longer be a problem. The requirements and application of this technology to audio differed greatly from video, and the research for this technology was divided into two projects: Video Long Playback and Long Audio Playback.
The development of Long Audio Playback, or ALP, required major changes in design compared to Long Video Playback. The VLP, which is the size of an LP, had 48 hours of music space. However, Ottens realized that this was not a practical game time and commissioned technicians to begin testing with smaller discs in 1972. The technicians initially experimented with 17.8 cm plates and when successful they further reduced the size to 11.5 cm so the discs would be compatible with existing vehicle radio systems.
Since the VLP laser is too large for the design Ottens designed, the ALP laser also had to be modified from the one used in VLPs. Using resources from NatLab, a new solid state laser has been developed that is smaller and more suitable for Ottens design. However, after years of experimentation, Ottens and his team determined that analog technology would cause a lot of background noise and could not compete with gramophone recordings. Later, they decided to start developing on new digital technology.
Because Philips’ sound division did not have enough in-house knowledge to develop this technology, Ottens assembled a team of seven technicians, two of whom came from Natlab, with experience in digital technology. In 1977 this team developed the first test model of the digital drive. This aroused Ottens’ enthusiasm and led him to set up a dedicated development lab for what he called the Compact Drive Development lab. A small production facility for test discs was created for the development lab.
The first full model was completed in March 1979. It was presented to over 300 journalists at a two-day press conference in Eindhoven by project leader Joop Sinjou.
Immediately after the conference, Ottens and Sinjou traveled to Japan to seek support for the compact disc and make it a world standard. On the way, they reached an agreement with Sony, which is ahead of Philips in digital enhancement and optical recording but has yet to find a way to reduce the size of their device. Companies agreed on joint development and set a universal standard.
1979-1984: Philips Video Director
After returning from his Japan trip, Ottens became technical director of Philips Video Main Industry Group. This episode was much larger than the sound division and was a major player in the TV set business at the time.
In his first year in this mission, the video division began to replace the VCR called Video 2000. This was a new video cassette system developed with Grundig. Each company has released separate versions of this recorder, with Ottens responsible for the Philips version.
Ottens faced many technical problems shortly after the product was launched. Within a few months of the products being placed on the market, most devices were returned to Philips for repair. In addition, the production costs of the Philips system were moderately higher than similar systems.
Under Ottens’ direction, a second version of the system was developed with the new chassis. This system was more compact and reliable, and had shorter start and stop times. It also had a smaller footprint, lighter weight, and a SCART port that was not implemented in the previous version. Further development efforts were made, and until 1984, Video 2000 had reliable stereo sound.
Also, in 1984, Ottens had VHS machines manufactured at its factory, which were almost identical to the Video 2000. These machines would eventually replace Video 2000, which could not catch up and was officially canceled in 1985.
The following years
Ottens remained active in technology for many years after retiring. In 1988, he became president of the Dutch Logistics Management Association. Ottens was among the interviewees in director Zack Taylor’s 2016 documentary Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape, and appeared at the world premiere screening at the East End Film Festival in London on June 24. Ottens dies in Duizel on March 6, 2021 at the age of 94