Ray Dolby, American Sound Pioneer, Has Passed Away

Life, Technology

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The AP reported last evening that Ray Dolby, the American inventor who can be credited with assisting in the design of the first practical VHS recording device and many other entertainment devices, has died at age 80 in his San Francisco home. Dolby has been heralded as the man who pioneered recorded sound.

CNET reported that Dolby had been living with Alzheimer's in recent years and was enduring a diagnosis of leukemia earlier in the summer. In a press statement from Dolby Labs, current CEO Kevin Yeaman mourned the loss of the Dolby namesake: "Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary... Ray Dolby founded the company based on a commitment to creating value through innovation and an impassioned belief that if you invested in people and gave them the tools for success they would create great things. Ray's ideals will continue to be a source of inspiration and motivation for us all."

Dolby Laboratories was founded by Ray Dolby in 1965 in London after he served the United Nations as an adviser to India, although the company would not see an American headquarters until 1976 in San Francisco. Born in Portland, Oregon and eventually moving to San Francisco, Dolby attended both Stanford and Cambridge Universities and earned his stripes working for Ampex as a chief electronic designer on the first videotape recorder.

Dolby's electronic work can be seen in any device that utilizes stereo sound, which is a vast number of technologies over the last forty-odd years from iMAX to iPod. Star Wars would not have sounded anywhere near as awesome without Dolby and his labs, and thanks to him the hissing of cassette tapes became a first-world memory.

Twitter saw a series of heartfelt tributes for the sound legend:

Dolby is survived by his wife, his two sons, their two wives and four grandchildren.

The Dolby press statement may be viewed here.

[Image via a brief 1 minute YouTube tribute]