from The San Francisco Chronicle

Ray Dolby, pioneering sound engineer, dies at 80

Sam Whiting

An undated photo of Ray Dolby from Dolby Laboratories Photo: Dolby Laboratories

Ray Dolby, the inventor who took the hiss out of the soundtrack of our lives, died Thursday at his home in San Francisco. He was 80 and had been living with Alzheimer’s disease, compounded by a diagnosis of leukemia in July.

The name Dolby first became common decades ago when the sound wizard developed a system for eliminating the static noise on cassette tapes used for copying music from vinyl albums. The “Dolby” button on a cassette deck was a requirement for every college stereo. His influence also extended to film, where he helped bring “Star Wars” to life and created an entire industry devoted to the sound experience.

Now the imprint “Dolby” or “In Dolby” – or most recently “Dolby Atmos” – on a movie screen is a guarantee of sound quality known worldwide, and Dolby Laboratories, the San Francisco company he founded, has won just about every award there is, including the Oscar, the Emmy and the Grammy. The Dolby Theatre, the Hollywood home of the Academy Awards, is named for his company.

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