Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ray Dolby 1933-2013

Ray Dolby passed away in September and somehow the fact escaped me until recently. Dolby was a brilliant engineer and businessman who parlayed a few solid and original designs into a billion-dollar fortune.

Most people know of Dolby through that loud noise at the beginning of movies announcing the use of Dolby Surround Sound, or more recently, Dolby Digital. Dolby's surround processing became the standard for movie soundtrack realism and certainly was his cash cow. His Dolby branded systems earned him significant respect for both his business acumen and his engineering.

He began his company's successes with Dolby Noise Reduction, a simple and elegant solution to the nasty tape hiss associated with the compact cassette. Dolby's lovely trick took the cassette tape medium from voice-only Dictaphone use to become the first convenient format for portable quality stereo reproduction. Because of Dolby, the original personal portable music player, the Sony Walkman, became a reality some 34 years ago.

And so, without Dolby, we might still be waiting for the iPod.

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