Stephen Wilhite, creator of GIFs, dies aged 74

Stephen Wilhite, one of the inventors of the GIF animation technology, passed away last week from the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He lived to be 74 years old, and died amidst the love of relatives around the hospital bed. The obituary wrote: “Despite his numerous achievements, he is still a humble, kind and good person“.

The GIF image, which stands for “Graphics Interchange Format”, or “Image Interchange Format”, was created by Stephen Wilhite in the 80s while he was still working at CompuServe. He retired in the early 2000s, spending time with his wife Kathaleen enjoying a life traveling, camping, and assembling model trains in the basement of his family home.

Stephen Wilhite, the father of GIF images, has died at the age of 74 - Photo 1.

Mr and Mrs. Wilhite.

Today, GIF images are widely used in expressing emotions on the internet, as messages users give to each other, or in making memes to spread stories and issues of great interest to many people. However, Stephen Wilhite did not intend that when he invented the GIF image. As CompuServe asserted at the time, GIFs were a way of distributing “High quality, high resolution images“In a time when internet speed was still slow.

According to Mrs. Kathaleen Wilhite, Stephen’s wife, the father of GIF images, invented the breakthrough technology herself.

In fact, he did it at home, then brought it to the office and perfected it” said Mrs. Kathaleen. “He tinkered with everything himself, kept it secret in his head and then programmed it all on the computer“.

Stephen Wilhite, the father of GIF images, has died at the age of 74 - Photo 2.

The famous dancing baby GIF image. Anyone who remembers this photo must be old.

As the father of GIF, Mr. Wilhite repeatedly insisted that the word GIF should be read as “jif”, not “gif”. However, the unruly internet refuses to listen to adults, splitting into two halves with each side pronouncing a pattern. In an interview conducted by The New York Times in 2013, Stephen Wilhite said: “TThe Oxford English Dictionary recognizes both pronunciations. They’re wrong. It’s a skimmed ‘G’, pronounced ‘jif’. End of story“.

Also in the interview with the Times, he confirmed that the animated baby dancing is his favorite GIF.

Thank you for making a great contribution to the invention of GIF, which has now become a unique language that only exists on the internet. Considering that modern science and technology can be compared to “magic” in fantasy, GIF images are no different from the animated portraits that appear in the world of Harry Potter.

The name Stephen Wilhite with the title of father of GIF images, will be mentioned forever, even when the internet no longer exists.

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