Ray Dolby dies at 80

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

Dolby technology is used in everything from video games to movies.

Ray Dolby, the American inventor and audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories, died at the age of 80 in his San Francisco home on Thursday. Dolby had been living with Alzheimer’s disease and was diagnosed this summer with acute leukemia.

If the name Dolby sounds familiar, it’s probably because his work with sound reduction can still be seen in music, movies, and entertainment today. His company, Dolby Laboratories, helped improve the industry’s sound by reducing the hiss in cassette recordings, and brought Star Wars to life on the big screen in Dolby Stereo.

His fascination with sound started when he studied the vibrations of his clarinet reeds as a child. In 1949, he worked with a videotape recording company, Ampex, that magnified his obsession to epic proportions when he fiddled with their first audio tape recorder! It wasn’t until 1965, however, that he finally founded Dolby Laboratories and took the first step in revolutionizing sound with his noise reducing system.

“Ray really managed to have a dream job,” said Dagmar Dolby, his wife of 47 years. “Because he could do exactly what he wanted to do, whichever way he wanted to do it, and in the process, did a lot of good for many music and film lovers. And in the end, built a very successful company.” Adding to Dolby’s list of successful achievements, President Bill Clinton awarded him with the National Medal of Technology in 1997, and in 2004,  he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He’s also received several Emmys, two Oscars, and a Grammy.

Even Dolby’s co-workers described him as a passionate man who cared for his engineering and was not afraid to try new things. As Dolby once said, “To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in the darkness and grope toward an answer, to put up with the anxiety about whether there is an answer.” It’s easy to relate to Dolby, regardless of whether or not you’re inventing new technology, or just simply wondering what tomorrow will bring. His contributions to the entertainment industry will continue to live on every time we watch a flick in theatres and feel the seats booming from the insane sound system.

Images courtesy of Dolby Laboratories Facebook.