Although born in Guadalajara in 1910, Douglass' family took him to the United States two years later to avoid the political powder keg of the Mexican Revolution. His father worked as an engineer, and Young Charley would follow in his footsteps, graduating from the University of Nevada with a degree in electrical engineering. He joined the Navy during World War II, working on shipboard radar systems.
After his service ended, Douglass returned to civilian life as a sound engineer for CBS Radio. There, he noticed that some of the station's programming, recorded in front of a live audience, benefited from having that audience laugh along, while pre-recorded shows felt emptier. To fill the gaps, Douglass sifted through hours and hours of programming, categorizing the wide variety of laughter from shocked titters to deep belly laughs, excerpting the outbursts that fit the scenes. Asking actors and actresses to provide additional bits of laughter, the engineer compiled hundreds of recordings onto loops of magnetic tape that could be played over and over again seamlessly. With the wealth of replayable laughs, he built a device that allowed him to control each outburst with pinpoint precision.