Better in Dubly

Mr Dolby, of Dolby Noise Reduction Technology, and Dolby Surround Sound, and perhaps of other sonic innovations, has left £35 million to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in his Will. Ray Dolby (1933-2013) studied for his PhD at the college as a Marshall scholar, having graduated from Stanford University, and went on to become a research fellow for a time.

He subsequently founded Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965, before moving the company to San Francisco in 1976.

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I always assumed, I think, that Dolby was an acronym of some sort. Dynamic Oversampling and Lossless Bit sYstem. Something like that. But no. Just plain Ray Dolby.

I grew up in an era when cassettes and cassette players were just passing into the Dolby era (or the Doubly era, as they have it in Spinal Tap). You could hit a button on your cassette deck to reduce the hiss. That was Dolby. Why there was hiss in the first place, I never thought to ask. There is no hiss on a compact disc (and I recall marvelling the first few times I heard a CD how the music just started, without a little hissy preamble).

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Pembroke have indicated that they will be using the money to redevelop part of their Mill Lane site as graduate accommodation, in concert with three or four other colleges. This is part of a wider drive on the part of the University and Colleges to raise £2bn sharpish, so that the Biomedical Campus can be overhauled, the size of the student body increased, and new professorships endowed. So Ray Dolby’s gift will be doubly-welcome.

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