Sound Pioneer Ray Dolby Dies At 80

Dolby, who invented some of the technologies that revolutionized film and sound recording, was instrumental in developing surround sound technology. Dolby had been living with Alzheimer's and was diagnosed with leukemia this summer.

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Ray Dolby, whose inventions revolutionized the way audiences listen to entertainment, has died. He was 80 years old.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports the sound pioneer - whose name became synonymous with sound - died at home in San Francisco.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Thank Ray Dolby for inventing the system that surrounds you with sound at the movie theater and in your headphones.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Whispering) Surround you.

BARCO: Dolby was a prolific inventor of so many innovations used in the film and recording industries. He started out in high school, working for the Ampex Corporation in the San Francisco Bay Area. There, Dolby worked on the company's first audiotape recorder in 1949. Then in the 1950s, he became the chief designer of the first videotape recorder that was practical. He got degrees in electrical engineering and physics, and acted as a technical advisor to the United Nations in India.

Then, in 1965, Dolby started his own audio company, Dolby Laboratories. That's where he came up with noise-reducing technology that got rid of annoying hiss on recordings. Here he is talking to the Audio Engineering Society.

RAY DOLBY: I had to spend a lot of time traveling and giving endless demonstrations to skeptical engineers all over the world who had been taught that noise reduction was impossible and that only charlatans came along once in a while with the promise of noise reduction.

BARCO: Ray Dolby was a billionaire and a member of the Forbes 400. During his career, he held more than 50 patents, and received several Emmy awards, a Grammy and two Oscars for scientific and technical achievement.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


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