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Thread: RIP Lou Ottens (inventor of cassettes)

  1. #1
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    RIP Lou Ottens (inventor of cassettes)

    The inventor of the cassette tape has died.

    https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2021/0...-dies-aged-94/

    Smaller than a pack of cigarettes! There’s a selling point.

    I was buying cassettes well into the 1990s because they were (then) half the price of CDs. Remember those days? LP/CS $8.98, CD $15.98.

    I threw out all my home-recorded cassettes many years ago, mostly replaced by CDs, but I still have about 200 store-bought tapes. By 1990 cassette sound quality had really improved. I’ve got a bunch of Ryko world-music tapes from that time that still today sound as good as the CDs.

    My 2007 Toyota Avalon has a cassette deck in it and that is one of the reasons I bought that car. And its one of the reasons I hesitate to sell it.

    RIP.

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    I used to record all my lps on to cassette tape back in the 70’s. I also had a bunch of concerts I recorded off the radio on cassette. They were great to take in the car. I used maxell tape myself. Store bought ones I always thought were touchy. Some sounded ok and many sounded horrible. I guess it depended on the manufacturer. I had hundreds of them. Mostly all gone except for the important ones.

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    All gone, thrown out.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

  4. #4
    I guess his 120 minutes of fame were up.

    Seriously, though RIP. I still have about 900 cassettes. Only a couple dozen are factory tapes. Don't play them though.
    "A conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words."

    - Dr. Winston O'Boogie

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    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Couldn't they just flip him over and give him another 94 years?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    Couldn't they just flip him over and give him another 94 years?

  7. #7
    As a tribute his ashes will be scattered on the central reservation of all motorways.

  8. #8
    There's a documentary about Ottens and the cassette, made in 2016. Here's a preview:


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    I bought Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and Supposed Former Infatuation Junky on cassette in the 90s...which I still own. Now they're worth some serious coin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fracktured View Post
    I used to record all my lps on to cassette tape back in the 70’s. I also had a bunch of concerts I recorded off the radio on cassette. They were great to take in the car. I used maxell tape myself.
    Ditto, but I took it a step further. My records I'd play once or twice to record to cassette, then listen only to the cassettes. As a result, my records remain in pristine condition to this day. I also copied my store bought cassettes for the car. I didn't want the originals damaged in the Arizona heat.

    And of course, back in the 80s and early 90s, a 4-track cassette "studio" was the only reasonably priced option for DIY music production.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  10. #10
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    RIP Lou.

    Thanks for the music portability user-freindliness

    Quote Originally Posted by arturs View Post
    The inventor of the cassette tape has died.

    I was buying cassettes well into the 1990s because they were (then) half the price of CDs. Remember those days? LP/CS $8.98, CD $15.98.

    I threw out all my home-recorded cassettes many years ago, mostly replaced by CDs, but I still have about 200 store-bought tapes. By 1990 cassette sound quality had really improved. I’ve got a bunch of Ryko world-music tapes from that time that still today sound as good as the CDs.

    My 2007 Toyota Avalon has a cassette deck in it and that is one of the reasons I bought that car. And its one of the reasons I hesitate to sell it.

    RIP.
    I only bought three pre-recorded cassettes (Seger's Night Moves, Foreigner's DVision and Genesis ATTWT) and stopped because they were crap - not only in sound, but quality (broken prongs, tape unrolling inside decks) as well.

    However, until the CD-r appeared, I made hundreds of Maxell XL-II S compilations (I amalgamated a few album's best tracks from average albums of one artiste) and I still own a fair amount (most) of them. I tried a few other brands (Teac, Akai, Memorex, BASF - the worst of all - and Sony), but simply was not overjoyed by the results and longetivity. I actually never lost a Maxell tape through destruction - the only lost Maxell were through loans. I made dozens of compilation tapes to girls to "educate" them musically (all too often, to no avail), but also to get into their panties (that worked better).

    Last time I listened to them Maxell was 12 years ago, when I bought a second hand Citroen Xantia (from 98) from my GF's father and it still had a cassette deck. I drove around for about one year listening to Maxell tapes, before installing a CD deck from a previous car. My Yamaha HiFi chain in my Brussels pad still has a cassette deck, but more than likely it's been unused for longer than 12 years. I just powered it up to see if it's still working fine. (yes)

    Quote Originally Posted by Fracktured View Post
    I used to record all my lps on to cassette tape back in the 70’s. I also had a bunch of concerts I recorded off the radio on cassette. They were great to take in the car. I used maxell tape myself. Store bought ones I always thought were touchy. Some sounded ok and many sounded horrible. I guess it depended on the manufacturer. I had hundreds of them. Mostly all gone except for the important ones.
    Yup, throughout the 80/90's, my homemade C-90 were used mostly on the road or at least outside my place (ghetto blasters, walkman & such)

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    I guess his 120 minutes of fame were up.

    Seriously, though RIP. I still have about 900 cassettes. Only a couple dozen are factory tapes. Don't play them though.
    I tried 120 mins, but lost all of them, because the tape went loose inside the decks
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  11. #11
    I still have cassettes, though I hardly play them. My cassette-player isn't functioning right. Now I have 2 spare ones my dad owned, so I should try those.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    I tried 120 mins, but lost all of them, because the tape went loose inside the decks
    120 min tapes were too thin and tended to stretch. I always used 90s.
    "A conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words."

    - Dr. Winston O'Boogie

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    I am just wildly curious; has anyone ever heard of a successful re-spooling of a cassette tape that came unraveled? Now, that would be an accomplishment far greater than the invention of this obsolete media.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    120 min tapes were too thin and tended to stretch. I always used 90s.
    90s were also perfect for recording 2 45 minute records. Using a 60 or 120 would leave unused space. That did change in the early 1990s when the record went away, and the dominance of CDs made albums longer. When copying my tapes for the car, a prerecorded tape would suddenly no longer fit on a single side of a 90 minute cassette.

    Quote Originally Posted by SunRunner2 View Post
    I am just wildly curious; has anyone ever heard of a successful re-spooling of a cassette tape that came unraveled? Now, that would be an accomplishment far greater than the invention of this obsolete media.
    In my experience, it was more common for an open reel tape to fall off the reel than for a cassette to unravel. And don't even get me started on 8-Tracks.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

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    Another in the record all albums on cassette because they sounded better than the pre-recorded ones. Used in my car. Threw them out last summer because my cassette deck died about 5 years ago. 90% of them i still had the albums. They too almost got thrown out. Of course, I was given a dual player deck last week. Wish I had that last 10% back right about now.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by SunRunner2 View Post
    I am just wildly curious; has anyone ever heard of a successful re-spooling of a cassette tape that came unraveled? Now, that would be an accomplishment far greater than the invention of this obsolete media.
    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    In my experience, it was more common for an open reel tape to fall off the reel than for a cassette to unravel. And don't even get me started on 8-Tracks.
    Fixing cassette tapes was a cinch, except when they got chewed up. The problem with 8-tracks was that, if it got pulled out from the middle, it got twisted. We did finally figure out a way to re-spool them without splicing it. We would use a pencil eraser and slowly tuck the tape back onto the center of the spool. It was tedious, but it worked. Then again, it was easy enough to splice 8-track tape using scotch tape.
    "A conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words."

    - Dr. Winston O'Boogie

  17. #17
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I repaired a few cassettes with scotch tape, cutting a strip the same as or slightly narrower than the tape being repaired, and putting it on the non-recorded side.

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    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SunRunner2 View Post
    I am just wildly curious; has anyone ever heard of a successful re-spooling of a cassette tape that came unraveled? Now, that would be an accomplishment far greater than the invention of this obsolete media.
    Actually most standard pencils were too thin for this use, so once I found a thicker one, it became a constant mainstay next to my assette deck in my hifi rack. Didn't manage to find a second one to keep in the car, though. Maybe I should've looked in artiste furniture shops.

    The trickiest was to pull out the lengths of tapes that had unwounded inside the deck without damaging it (almost impossible, if detected too late).

    The worst thing one could do was to stop the cassette deck in the middle of the tape - even worse, not pop out the cassette before stopping the car contact. Disastrous effect, not that much when stopping, but at the restart (tape stretch)

    Once that was repaired, the thing to do was to ffwd the tape entirely six or 7 times in a row to even out the tension throughout the tape - though that still wasn't perfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    90s were also perfect for recording 2 45 minute records. Using a 60 or 120 would leave unused space. That did change in the early 1990s when the record went away, and the dominance of CDs made albums longer. When copying my tapes for the car, a prerecorded tape would suddenly no longer fit on a single side of a 90 minute cassette.
    My choice was the 2x45 only partly because of the album lengths (plenty of album lasted considerably less than 40 mins anyways), but it was the most widely available (by a huge margin). And I had a car CD player installed relatively quick after I finally switched to CD at home (roughly in 92, when I had no choice with those Swedish trilogy prog albums, if I wanted to own them), so it wasn't much an issue anymore.

    The CD was so user-friendly (not just over the vinyl, but cassette as well) that I chose to opt for it in the car and oust the cassette quickly... though it's a shame the HiFi-burned CD-r took soooooo long to arrive on the market.

    In my experience, it was more common for an open reel tape to fall off the reel than for a cassette to unravel. And don't even get me started on 8-Tracks.
    TBH, I once witnessed these tape reels getting loose and it scared me away to invest that technology - those Akai black decks had a real look on them too.
    My grandfather had a Telefunken Reel to Reel recorded and had dozens of operas (yuuckkkk!!!!) recorded on them, though he taped them off the radio during the 70's, so it's not like they were high-quality recordings

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    Fixing cassette tapes was a cinch, except when they got chewed up. The problem with 8-tracks was that, if it got pulled out from the middle, it got twisted. We did finally figure out a way to re-spool them without splicing it. We would use a pencil eraser and slowly tuck the tape back onto the center of the spool. It was tedious, but it worked. Then again, it was easy enough to splice 8-track tape using scotch tape.
    I fixed many cassettes (for GFs as well), but wouldn't call it a cinch.
    Having worked for the Belgian TV as my first job back in the old world, I found out about those special tapes to allow splicing in the magnetic tape, so I took a spool of it home. Mixed results really , because it is works fine for expensive professional machines, it wasn't great for cassettes or VHS tapes, because of the greater mechanical-origins tension on the magnetic ribbon (apparently substantially greater or more brutal than those expensive studio toolery)
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

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    ^^^^

    Some real creative and original concepts for fixing the unwound tapes shown by the above responses. Me and my friends would have loved to have salvaged the "broken" cassettes using these approaches.

    Good point by Trane as to the frail aspect of the technology: "The worst thing one could do was to stop the cassette deck in the middle of the tape - even worse, not pop out the cassette before stopping the car contact.Tape Stretch"

    Now, I learn this critical piece of the puzzle!!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
    Fixing cassette tapes was a cinch, except when they got chewed up. The problem with 8-tracks was that, if it got pulled out from the middle, it got twisted. We did finally figure out a way to re-spool them without splicing it. We would use a pencil eraser and slowly tuck the tape back onto the center of the spool. It was tedious, but it worked. Then again, it was easy enough to splice 8-track tape using scotch tape.
    A real heartbreak was an 8-Track separating right at the splice. That metal splice serving the dual purpose of joining the tape in a loop, and completing the circuit to change channels automatically. And of course, the other end of the tape would be at the very inside of the spool of tape, where it was least accessible. It didn't help the splice was attached to the metal oxide side of the tape. But it would've been worse on the other side, which was lubricated to facilitate being pulled out of the center.
    Last edited by progmatist; 4 Weeks Ago at 04:25 PM.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  21. #21
    I had about 1,000 cassettes. I put about 450 of them onto a flash drive in 2014. Took me a year. It's in my car and connected to my desktop.
    Thanks so much, Lou. You did a great thing!

  22. #22
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    When I was in the 5th grade, my parents gave me a portable cassette recorder for Christmas. A few months later, my mom and I were shopping for tapes at K-Mart. She said they should've given me an 8-Track player instead because everything was available on 8-Track. That of course was anti-prophetic because a few years later, the 8-Track was dead and gone.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by progmatist View Post
    A real heartbreak was an 8-Track separating right at the splice. That metal splice serving the dual purpose of joining the tape in a loop, and completing the circuit to change channels automatically. And of course, the other end of the tape would be at the very inside of the spool of tape, where it was least accessible. It didn't help the splice was attached to the metal oxide side of the tape. But it would've been worse on the other side, which was lubricated to facilitate being pulled out of the center.
    I would have hated to be a development engineer working on the eight-track mechanism. Imagine the first concept meeting. "Wait, what, you want it to feed in from the outside and feed out from the inside?!?"

  24. #24
    Banned Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    I remember at least one occasion where I had a cassette that made a squeaky noise when played and would sometimes get stuck, so I transferred the tape to another cassette shell including the reels inside. I also did it for a problematic 8-track, which I had to cut apart because once the halves of the shell were snapped together, they wouldn't come apart, as I recall. I had a receiver with a built-in 8-track recorder, and I had something I'd taped off the radio that I couldn't replace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Halmyre View Post
    I would have hated to be a development engineer working on the eight-track mechanism. Imagine the first concept meeting. "Wait, what, you want it to feed in from the outside and feed out from the inside?!?"
    One company tried to make a continuous play cassette, based on 8-Track technology. It didn't go over well, for obvious reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave (in MA) View Post
    I remember at least one occasion where I had a cassette that made a squeaky noise when played and would sometimes get stuck, so I transferred the tape to another cassette shell including the reels inside. I also did it for a problematic 8-track, which I had to cut apart because once the halves of the shell were snapped together, they wouldn't come apart, as I recall. I had a receiver with a built-in 8-track recorder, and I had something I'd taped off the radio that I couldn't replace.
    Like you, I've had cassettes in which the lubricating pad on either side of the shell became dried out. That can be quite problematic because the take-up reel can stop taking up, causing the tape to collect inside the machine. I also fixed it by transferring the tape to another shell.

    A more common problem for me is when a tape becomes too old and dried out, it'll deposit iron or chromium dioxide on the tape head. That in turn creates friction causing the tape to start squeaking, which is also audible in playback. When digitizing a couple of tapes in particular, I had to record just one song/movement, clean the head, record the next song.....lather, rinse, repeat.
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

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