Rewound

On its 50th birthday, the cassette tape is still rolling

Bartholomew Cooke for TIME

The man who invented the compact cassette tape doesn't remember what was recorded on the very first one, but he does remember what came next. Lou Ottens, who led the product's development for Philips, recalls the commotion that occurred when the Dutch company introduced the cassette to the world 50 years ago this month at a 1963 radio exhibition, the Funkausstellung in Berlin.

"It was a big surprise for the market," Ottens, now 87, says. "It was so small in comparison with reel-to-reel recorders that it was at that moment a sensation."

What now seems like a relic was a revolution...