Born in Portland, Oregon, the inventor and founder of Dolby Laboratories made his name by reducing the background hiss on magnetic tape recordings. His analogue noise-reduction system used an electronic filter to boost the volume of low-level, highfrequency sounds during recording. Then, by reversing the process during playback, it removed most of the audible hiss.
The first ’Dolby A’ production unit was bought by Decca Records, London, and by the late 1970s, the legendary ’Dolby B‘ technology (a less costly and less complex filtering system) was standard on virtually every hi-fi cassette player.
With the coming of the digital era, Dolby turned his attention to improving cinema sound. In 1977, George Lucas’ Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were the first films released in Dolby Stereo® – a significant milestone that changed movie sound forever.
Yet Dr Dolby’s heart actually lay with machines. “I love machinery. I would have liked to have been in a position to make a better steam engine, or to invent the first internal combustion engine; to work on the first car. I just regret that I was born in a time when most of those mechanical problems had already been solved, and what remained were electronic problems.”