Surround sound got its start in the movies, when Disney's Fantasia utilized the proprietary Fantasound technology to reproduce multiple audio channels. The format was abandoned, however, because of its high cost.
In the 1950s, movie studios utilized multiple-channel sound with their new widescreen formats, Cinerama and CinemaScope.
The movie surround sound we know today debuted in 1976 when Dolby Laboratories introduced the four-channel Dolby Stereo format. Cinema surround went digital in 1992 when Dolby Digital Surround, a 5.1-channel format, was introduced.
In the home, surround sound has its roots in stereophonic recordings, as well as the various quadraphonic audio formats of the 1970s.
Designed to reproduce the cinema's surround soundtracks, the Dolby Surround format was introduced to home video in 1982. It was a matrixed three-channel format: left, right, and surround. In 1987, the format was updated with the release of Dolby Pro Logic, a matrixed four-channel format (left, center, right, and surround).
Discrete digital surround sound was introduced in 1995 with the release of Dolby Digital. This format had a maximum capacity of 5.1 channels: left front, center front, right front, left surround, right surround, and a separate low frequency effects (LFE) channel. A competing format, DTS, offers a similar channel setup.
More recently, Dolby Digital EX adds one or two matrixed rear channels to the standard Dolby Digital mix, for 6.1- and 7.1-channel systems. DTS ES offers a similar matrixed 6.1/7.1-channel arrangement, while DTS ES Discrete offers a discrete rear channel in a 6.1-channel configuration.