The founder of Dolby Laboratories, Ray Dolby, passed away last Thursday in San Francisco, at age 80. He suffered from Alzheimer ’s disease and acute leukemia.
Dolby was the inventor of the analog noise reduction system known as Dolby NR
. He was also a co-inventor of video tape recording while at Ampex
in Redwood City, California.
In 1965, Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories while in London with a staff of four. In that same year he officially invented the Dolby Sound System, a form of electronic filter, although his first U.S. patent was not filed until 1969, four years later. The filter was first used by Decca Records in the UK. He and his two sons, Tom and David, and wife Dagmar as well as co-workers grew the business into a widely recognized audio enhancement technology. He first entered the billionaire ranks in 2005 when Dolby Laboratories went public. Dolby was a member of the Forbes 400 with an estimated net worth of $2.9 billion in 2008, although as of September 2012 it was estimated to have declined to $2.4 billion
Dolby’s death comes soon after the July passing of loudspeaker innovator Dr. Amar Bose
. Earlier the audio world lost another pioneer, Dr. Fritz Sennheiser
in 2010. Sennheiser was the inventor of the shotgun microphone and wireless microphones.
Dolby's magical surround sound continues to lead the industry, with Dolby 3D and Dolby Atmos as its latest contributions. His development of the noise reduction filtering concepts are still considered a revolutionary breakthrough and made him an icon of the industry. Until Ray Dolby showed the world that his ideas worked, audio engineers said it could not be done. Audiophiles of the 1940’s and 1950’s remember well the background hiss in all their ‘high-fidelity’ audio systems (my father’s included).
Over the years Dolby earned 50 patents, two Oscars, multiple Emmys and a Grammy.
David Dolby, son and member of Dolby Laboratories' Board of Directors said on their website: "My father was a thoughtful, patient and loving man, determined to always do the right thing in business, philanthropy, and as a husband and father. Our family is very proud of his achievements and leadership. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy of innovation will live on."
BSN called on audio recording studio owner, Zach Boles, at Studio Z
to talk about how Dolby Labs affected his music recording session. Zach said, “Dolby Surround Sound has a huge impact on our industry. Their products and licensing of intellectual property (IP) has made what we do sound better to all our clients. The musical groups we record are deeply indebted to Ray Dolby and Dolby Labs – they always sound better when played back on Dolby Surround Sound systems.”
The Dolby Laboratorie’s website posted a tribute to its founder, including these quotes from Ray Dolby summing up the passion of inventing and the meaning of success.
Dolby said, “I’ve often thought that I would have made a great 19th century engineer, because I love machinery. I would have liked to have been in a position to make a better steam engine, or to invent the first internal combustion engine; to work on the first car. All my life, I’ve loved everything that goes; I mean bicycles, motorcycles, cars, jeeps, boats, sail or power, airplanes, helicopters. I love all of these things, and I just regret that I was born in a time when most of those mechanical problems had already been solved and what remained were electronic problems.”“Remember that most of my life was that of an adventurer, not of somebody who is trying to invent something all the time. I wanted the experience of traveling to many parts of the world. Inventions were part of my life, but they didn’t overtake everything that I was doing.”“To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in this darkness and grope towards an answer, to put up with anxiety about whether there is an answer.”
Dolby said, “I was never a gold-digger, or an Oscar-digger, or anything like that. I just had an instinct about the right sort of things that should be done in my business. So all these things just fell into place.”“I think I was both lucky and I was also straightforward with people, and I think they liked that attitude.”“There is no major next step. It’s a matter of constantly being aware of one’s environment, of keeping track of what’s happening in the various industries that we’re operating in and just sort of sensing what’s possible and what’s not possible, what’s needed, what’s not needed-just having all your antennae going, sensitized to all the signals that are out there.”
Ray Dolby and his inventive mind will be missed, but his ideas will continue to flourish.
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