Through his eponymous noise-reduction units, Dolby made the most important technical contribution to the success of the tape cassette. From 1949 he was employed by Ampex on noise reduction programmes and then studied physics in London, England. After working in India for some years, Dolby opened a laboratory in London in 1965, selling his initial A-type system, designed for recording studios, to Decca Records and others. His research on reducing tape hiss for the 8-track cartridge and the cassette resulted in the B-type system in 1971. Within 12 months almost every major cassette manufacturer was using this system, although Philips Records held out for a few years before converting. In 1978, Dolby’s invention was adapted for the cinema and Star Wars was the first movie to have its soundtrack enhanced by the noise-reduction method. This system was upgraded for digital sound in 1991. So jealously guarded was the Dolby name that in 1987 Dolby Laboratories sued the musician/producer Thomas Dolby (b. Thomas Morgan Robertson) for copyright infringement. Robertson agreed to ‘license’ the name from Ray Dolby’s company.
Share this page