Ray Dolby, Engineer & Inventor
From "Star Wars" to VCRs: What you don't hear

"Star Wars" forever changed our movie-going experience. It was one of the first films to be recorded using Dolby sound and audiences everywhere sat up and listened. Low-fidelity, mono sound was replaced with the exciting, new Dolby stereo format. Soon audiences were going out of their way to theaters using Dolby equipment.

Twenty years later, as the original "Star Wars" trilogy is about to be re-released, it will be presented in multichannel digital sound thanks again to Ray Dolby, engineer of the noise reduction system that bears his name. Founder and Chairman of Dolby Laboratories Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, Dolby is famous for innovations ranging from the high-quality cassettes we use in our car stereos to the latest digital surround sound in movie theaters. Dolby's career spans more than forty years, beginning when as a high school student he went to work part time for Ampex Corporation. While still in college, he joined the small team of Ampex engineers dedicated to inventing the world's first practical video tape recorder. The Ampex VTR, the electronics that had been largely Dolby's responsibility, was introduced to the broadcast industry in1956. It was the forerunner of what was to become a huge industry in its own right.

An electrical engineering graduate of Stanford University with a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University, Dolby founded his own company, Dolby Laboratories, in 1965. His first development was Dolby A-type noise reduction. It was a sophisticated new form of audio compression and expansion which dramatically reduced the background hiss inherent in professional tape recording with no discernible side-effects on the material being recorded. Dolby decided to manufacture his new system himself, and market it to record companies. That decision laid the foundation for what today accounts for 60% of company sales in professional audio products worldwide. The balance is in licensing royalty income. Currently, Dolby technology is being applied to digital sound for film and laser discs.


National Engineers Week Headquarters
1420 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
tel. 703.684.2852 email: eweek@nspe.org

Top

Dr. Ray Dolby

Engineer and Inventor