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Ray Dolby, Who Pioneered Recorded Sound, Dies

Ray Dolby arriving for the 85th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.
Ian West
PA Photos /Landov
Ray Dolby arriving for the 85th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.

Ray Dolby, who invented some of the technologies that revolutionized film and sound recording, died at age 80 today in San Francisco.

Even if Ray Dolby doesn't ring a bell, you have undoubtably come upon his name in the movie theater or along the edge of a cassette tape. You've also heard his work: He pioneered a noise reduction format called Dolby SR and his company was instrumental in developing surround sound technology.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"Dolby, born in Portland, Ore., was a precocious inventor. While attending high school in San Francisco and then at Stanford University, Dolby worked at Ampex Corp., where he was the chief designer of the first practical videotape recording system.

"By the end of his life, he held more than 50 patents and had received two Oscars for scientific and technical achievement, several Emmys and a Grammy."

In a statement, his son David Dolby described his father as "thoughtful, patient and loving."

"He will be sorely missed," Dolby added. "But his legacy of innovation will live on."

The AP reports:

"'Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary,' Kevin Yeaman, President and CEO of Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement.

"Yeaman said that Dolby invented an entire industry around being able to deliver a sound experience. His work spanned helping to reduce the hiss in cassette recordings to bringing 'Star Wars' to life on the big screen in Dolby Stereo."

Dolby had been living with Alzheimer's and was diagnosed with leukemia this summer.

His company published a video that encapsulates his life:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.