Anyone who's ever made a mixtape or grew up playing a favorite song so often you wore out a cassette tape can appreciate the work that Lou Ottens did in the 1960s.
His team was responsible for the compact cassette tape system and followed that up by working on compact discs. Ottens, who died March 6, maintained all he did was come up with the idea. It was other engineers and designers who made it happen, he said.
But an interesting thing I discovered while writing about him is that cassettes are not simply a bit of nostalgia. In fact, National Audio Co. Inc. of Springfield, Mo. — the only U.S. maker of cassettes — says demand is increasing.
In 2018, National Audio said it was making 10 million cassettes per year, going through 20,000 feet of polyurethane film for tapes each minute.
The company bought used equipment from former suppliers to create its own manufacturing lines when other firms weren't interested in supplying cassettes.
The continuing interest, co-owner Steve Stepp told the Springfield News-Leader, is driven by fans' preference for a "warmer" tone of analog audio vs. the crisp sound of digital recordings.