Ray Dolby, Inventor of Surround Sound, Dies at 80; while Ray Dolby was an engineer at heart, his achievements “grew out of a love of music and the arts.”

Ray Dolby, Inventor of Surround Sound, Dies at 80

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Ray Dolby, the billionaire U.S. inventor whose name became synonymous with high-end home and cinema surround sound, has died. He was 80. He died yesterday at his home in San Francisco, according to a statement by Dolby Laboratories Inc. (DLB) He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and was diagnosed in July with acute leukemia, the San Francisco-based company said. Through the company he founded in 1965, Dolby pioneered noise-reduction and surround-sound technologies that are used in movies, cinemas, personal computers and home theater equipment. The Dolby logo — two block-letter Ds, facing each other — became a sign of audio quality, indicating the presence of Dolby technology that reduced the hiss from cassette tapes, for instance, or added a digital soundtrack to movies. Tom Dolby, one of his sons, said in the statement that while his father was an engineer at heart, his achievements “grew out of a love of music and the arts.” When Dolby Laboratories went public in 2005, its shares surged 35 percent on the first day of trading. The founder, who held more than 50 patents, received $306 million from the IPO, and his 69.8 percent stake became worth $1.65 billion. As of yesterday his net worth was $2.85 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.Stanford Graduate

Dolby Laboratories, with about 1,500 employees, had revenue of $926 million in 2012, the bulk of it coming from technology licensing.

Ray Milton Dolby was born on Jan. 18, 1933, in Portland, Oregon. He received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1957 from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and a doctorate in physics in 1961 from the University of Cambridge. He went to work for Ampex Corp. as chief electronics designer for the first practical videotape recording system.

In 1963, he accepted a two-year appointment as a United Nations adviser in India, and then returned to England in 1965 and founded Dolby Laboratories in London. In 1976, he moved to San Francisco, where the company established its headquarters, laboratories, and manufacturing facilities.

Two 1977 blockbuster films, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars,” used Dolby Stereo technology and made high-end audio an essential part of the films’ appeal.

In 1989, along with Dolby Laboratories executive Ioan Allen, Dolby was awarded an Oscar for continuous contributions to motion picture sound. He received an Order of the Officer of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth in 1987 and the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton in 1997.

Survivors include his wife, Dagmar; sons Tom and David; and four grandchildren, the company said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net

September 12, 2013
Ray Dolby, Who Put Moviegoers in the Middle, Is Dead at 80


Ray Dolby, the sound pioneer who revolutionized the recording industry with the invention of the Dolby noise-reduction system and transformed cinema and home entertainment with Dolby digital surround sound, died on Thursday at his home in San Francisco. He was 80.

He had developed Alzheimer’s disease several years ago and last July received a diagnosis of acute leukemia, his company, Dolby Laboratories, said in announcing his death.

Film industry executives credit Dr. Dolby with developing sophisticated technologies that enabled directors like Steven Spielberg to endow sound with the same emotional intensity as pictures.

“In ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ the sound of the spaceship knocked the audience on its rear with the emotional content,” said Sidney Ganis, a film producer who is a former president of Paramount Pictures and a former president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “That was created by the director, but provided by the technology that Ray Dolby invented.”

The Dolby name became synonymous with high fidelity. For his pioneering contributions to audio engineering, Dr. Dolby received an Oscar, several Emmy Awards and a Grammy. He was also awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Bill Clinton and was appointed a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Trained in engineering and physics, Dr. Dolby started Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965 and soon after introduced technology that produced cleaner, crisper sound by electronically reducing the hiss generated by analog tape recording.

Decca Records was the first customer to buy the Dolby System. The noise-reduction technology quickly became a staple of major record labels.

By the 1970s, film studios began adopting the system as well. It was first used in 1971 in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” In the 1980s, the company introduced its digital surround sound technology into home entertainment.

Ray Milton Dolby was born on Jan. 18, 1933, in Portland, Ore., to Earl Milton Dolby and the former Esther Strand. His father was a salesman. Ray was interested in how sound worked from a young age and took clarinet lessons.

As a teenager, he met Alexander Poniatoff, a Russian émigré and electrical engineer who had started the electronics company Ampex, a pioneering maker of tape recorders, in 1944 in San Carlos, Calif. Hired in 1949, Mr. Dolby developed the electronic components of the company’s videotape recording system.

He left the company in 1957, the same year he graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, deciding to pursue graduate studies at Cambridge University in Britain on a Marshall Scholarship and a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He received a postdoctoral degree in physics from Cambridge in 1961. While at Cambridge, he met a summer student named Dagmar Bäumert, whom he married.  She survives him, along with two sons, Tom and David, and four grandchildren.

Beginning in 1963, Dr. Dolby spent two years in India as an adviser for the United Nations, then returned to England and founded Dolby Laboratories.

He moved the company to San Francisco in 1976. The next year, the company gained wider renown with the release of “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” both of which used Dolby Stereo, a system for recording films in multichannel sound. In the 1980s, Dolby Labs introduced surround sound technology in television, compact discs, and laser discs.

Dr. Dolby served as chairman of the Dolby board from 1965 until 2009, retiring in 2011.

In 2012, the auditorium that is home to the Academy Awards, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, was renamed the Dolby Theater.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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