If you’ve listened to recorded sound or watched anything in the last 50 or 60 years, you owe Ray Dolby a pretty big thank you. Most of the audio and video technology we enjoy today is stuff that he either helped to invent or to dramatically improve.
The one thing that really bothered him about tape-recorded sound was the constant hiss, especially noticeable during quiet moments. He went to work on fixing that, and came up with Dolby Noise Reduction. It was quickly adopted by record companies, and then by Hollywood for movies. “You could divide film sound in half,” said sound editor Walter Murch last year. “There is BD, before Dolby, and there is AD, after Dolby.” After solving the hiss, Dolby went on to create the Digital Surround Sound system still used today in most theaters.
And that was *after* he’d worked on the world’s first broadcast quality videotape recorder as a teenager.
He died of leukemia on September 12th. He was 80.