Lodewijk Frederik (Lou) Ottens

Philips’ golden boy who remained down-to- earth

As a teenager Lou Ottens already built a radio, so that his family could listen to Radio Oranje during the war. A study at the Technical High School in Delft was his cup of tea. To pay for his education, he worked as a draftsman in a factory for X-ray equipment. In 1952, Ottens graduated as a mechanical engineer. He was hired by Philips immediately.

Ottens’ irritation with the existing sound carriers - too large, too laborious - was the impetus for a new product: the cassette tape, officially the ‘compact cassette’. In 1963,
he presented the compact cassette at an electronics fair in Berlin. Upon release, the cassette tape was the standard for decades. After a stint as factory manager in Hasselt, Ottens became technical director of the audio division. There he laid the foundation for the invention of the CD. As with the cassette, he insisted that the final product be small and manageable: compact. After a further period in the video division, Ottens spent the last years of his career working on improving industrial logistics in Philips’ consumer divisions.

Ottens did not flaunt his inventions. It was only natural for him: as a mechanical engineer, he was looking for solutions. He welcomed innovation. At his farewell in 1986, Ottens presented all those present with a book in which he had chronicled his experiences in product development, manufacturing, logistics and industrial management. He died in 2021 at the age of 94.

Ir. Lou Ottens is receiving this award because of his great influence on the development of the most prominent sound carriers of the 20th century: the cassette tape and the CD.