January 18 – Happy Birthday, Ray Dolby

Posted on January 18, 2016

You know who Ray Dolby is, right?

How many times have you been in a movie theater and saw something like, “Presented in Dolby Sound” or “Dolby Surround Sound?”

Dolby Laboratories has won at least
11 Academy Awards for their
contributions to movie sound systems.
Ray Dolby was the American engineer who invented the noise reduction system called Dolby NR. He also helped develop the video tape recorder and started a company that is still going strong today in audio encoding and compression technologies.

Dolby, born in Portland, Oregon, on this date in 1933, has been so important in entertainment technologies that he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

How does someone get into such a field?

Dolby's father was an inventor, and Ray Dolby himself was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a teenager in the decade after World War II, a time of great prosperity and opportunity, and he held a summer job at a company called Ampex. He worked with their first audio tape recorder in 1949, and his work with the company on the company's prototype Quadruplex videotape recorder, which was presented in 1956, was while he was still going to college.

Dolby went to a couple of great universities—Stanford, located near his birthplace in California, and Cambridge, in England—and he earned a B.S. In electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in physics. 

Dolby lived in several places. He was in the U.S. Army for two years, and he got a job as a technical advisor to the United Nations in India. Dolby actually started his company, Dolby Laboratories, in London, and his famous Dolby Sound System was first used by Decca Records in the U.K.

Dolby Laboratories are now headquartered in San Francisco. I'm not sure what year Dolby himself came “home” to the Bay Area, but I do know that he loved the University of Cambridge so much, he left $52 million to the university!

So...how did Dolby do his famous noise-reduction?

Dolby's original system works by increasing the volume of low-level high-frequency sounds during recording and then reducing them during playback. That reduction in high-frequency volume reduces tape hiss.

also here

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