Ray Dolby, the Portland-born founder of Dolby Laboratories, revolutionized the recording industry with his noise-reduction system in the 1960s and transformed the way we hear movies starting in the 1970s. The namesake of the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards are held, died today in San Francisco, his home. He had Alzheimer’s disease and acute leukemia.
From the New York Times obituary:
Film industry executives credit Dr. Dolby with developing sophisticated technologies that enabled directors like Steven Spielberg to endow sound with the same emotional intensity as pictures. “In ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ the sound of the spaceship knocked the audience on its rear with the emotional content,” said Sidney Ganis, a film producer who is a former president of Paramount Pictures and a former president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “That was created by the director, but provided by the technology that Ray Dolby invented.”
Over the course of Dr. Dolby’s career, the Dolby name became synonymous with high fidelity. For his pioneering contributions to audio engineering, Dr. Dolby received an Oscar, several Emmy Awards and a Grammy. He was also awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Clinton and was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Trained in engineering and physics, Dr. Dolby started Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965 and soon after introduced technology that produced cleaner, crisper sound by electronically reducing the hiss generated by analog tape recording.
Decca Records was the first customer to buy the Dolby System. The noise-reduction technology quickly became a staple of major record labels.
By the 1970s, film studios began adopting the system as well. It was first used in 1971 in “A Clockwork Orange.” In the 1980s, the company introduced its digital surround sound technology into home entertainment.
He worked at Ampex, a Bay Area maker of tape recorders, while earning a degree at Stanford and later got a doctorate in physics at Cambridge.
Here is the company's video remembering Ray Dolby:
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound speaker test: