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Ray Dolby: He Made Everything Sound Better

In the 1970s, “Dolby” was that button on your cassette deck that you pressed to magically eliminate static hiss that could easily mar the beauty of, say, Jimmy Page’s guitar solos on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.

Dolby (left) being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004

Dolby (left) being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004.

Of course, the noise-reduction technology pioneered by inventor Ray Dolby, who died on Sept. 12 at age 80 in San Francisco, did much more than that. Sound-improving innovations developed by his Dolby Labs have found their way into an estimated 7.4 billion consumer electronics products, from car stereos to televisions.

But Dolby’s greatest impact may have been on the motion picture industry. Dolby technology enabled filmmakers to create vivid soundtracks that could be played at high volumes in theaters, turning movie-watching into an intense multisensory experience.

Here are some intriguing facts about Dolby and the aural revolution in sound he helped to create:


From the Archive of American Television, here’s a video interview with Dolby, in which he explains how his noise-reduction system worked.


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