Background

Lou Ottens, audio innovation giant

René Raaijmakers
Leestijd: 12 minuten

The passing of Lou Ottens marks the closing of an era. An audio man to the core, he stood at the cradle of the compact cassette at Philips and played a guiding role in the development and industrialization of the compact disc. For the book “Natlab,” René Raaijmakers visited him in 2011.

In the fall of 2011, Lou Ottens emailed me that “with some surprise,” he had received my invitation for an interview about his part in the history of the compact disc. He thought this history had already been explored to quite some extent. But if I thought that his additions made sense, I was welcome to come and hear “grandpa tell a story” in his home in the woods near Knegsel, a stone’s throw from the A67 highway.

It turned out to be quite an afternoon. Ottens had difficulty talking, pausing not only between sentences but also between words. But for his 85 years, he still had a good memory and was fresh in his mind. He put his own person in perspective in a humorous way. He was just a mechanical engineer, a country bumpkin and certainly not cut out for something as weighty as a PhD. He interspersed his stories with dry remarks like that.

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