Ray Dolby, a pioneer of surround sound and the man largely responsible for the quality of modern digital audio, has died in San Francisco. He was 80 years old.
Dolby first got started in technology as a teenager working on the development of video recording at Ampex Corporation in Redwood City. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, and ultimately a PhD from Cambridge University, before establishing Dolby Laboratories in England in 1965 (which Dolby later relocated to his home town of San Francisco). Among the most significant innovations coming from Dolby Laboratories were the Dolby noise-reduction system (Dolby NR), which cleaned up the audio signal by reducing the audible hiss of tape; Dolby Surround, which expanded traditional stereo into a 360-degree audio environment; and numerous digital audio compression formats for a variety of applications. Dolby’s innovations quickly became a standard for film audio, professional recordings and home stereo systems around the world. His contributions to audio innovation ultimately garnered him an Oscar, a Grammy and two Emmy awards. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2004, and was scheduled to receive his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year.
Ray Dolby had been suffering for the past several years with Alzheimer’s Disease, but his death is attributed to leukemia. He passed away at home on Thursday.