Described by some as “Europe’s biggest tech show”, the Berlin Radio Show has long been famous for exhibiting the next big thing in consumer electronics. In 1963, that was the compact audio cassette, introduced at the time by its creator, the late Dutch engineer Lou Ottens, who died in early March. Over the course of Ottens’ lifetime, cassette tapes came to redefine listening habits, which until then had been limited to the much more unwieldy vinyl record. Car stereos and the iconic Sony Walkman suddenly made individual listening experiences possible outside of the home. The re-recordable nature of the format, meanwhile, helped music fans collate and circulate their own mixtapes. At its peak in 1989, the cassette tape was shifting 83 million units per year in the UK alone.
Despite having been superseded in functionality first by the compact disc (CD) and then the digital file (mp3 and mp4), the audio cassette retains a special place in the history of audio technology, with mixtapes a precursor to playlists, and the Walkman the precursor to the iPod.
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