- Stephen Wilhite, a co-creator of the GIF, died last week at the age of 74 of COVID, according to his widow, Kathaleen, who spoke with The Verge.
- He passed away surrounded by family members. According to his obituary, despite his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and kind man.
- Stephen Wilhite developed on GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, during his tenure at CompuServe in the 1980s. GIF is now used for answers, messages, and jokes.
- In the early 2000s, he retired and spent his time traveling, camping, and building model trains in his basement.
- Wilhite mentioned in the Times interview that one of his favorite GIFs is the dancing baby meme, which acquired popularity before the terms “memes” and “became viral.”
Stephen Wilhite, one of the GIF’s primary creators, died this week at the age of 74 from COVID, according to his widow, Kathaleen, who talked with The Verge. He died surrounded by relatives. According to his obituary, he remained a very modest, gentle, and kind man despite his successes.
While engaged at CompuServe in the 1980s, Stephen Wilhite worked on GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, today used for responses, messages, and jokes. He retired in the early 2000s and spent his time traveling, camping, and in his basement creating model trains.
Although animated internet memes have become synonymous with GIFs in recent years, Wilhite did not originate the concept. CompuServe created them in the late 1980s to facilitate the distribution of “high-quality, high-resolution photographs” in color during a time when internet speeds were slower than they are now. He created GIF entirely on his own – he did it at home and then brought it to work when he mastered it, Kathaleen explained. He would work out everything in his thoughts privately and then program it on the computer.
If you’re interested in learning more about the GIF’s origins, the Daily Dot has an excellent explanation of how the format became an online craze.
While long-standing arguments have raged about the proper pronunciation of the picture format, Wilhite was unambiguous about how he meant it to be stated. “The Oxford English Dictionary permits both pronunciations,” he told The New York Times in 2013. They are incorrect. It is pronounced ‘Jif.’ It is a soft ‘G.’ That concludes the narrative.”
He reaffirmed that view later that month when he accepted a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for inventing the GIF, delivering his acceptance speech through animation. (You can see the entire video of him taking the prize here.) After 25 years, they finally recognized his accomplishment, Kathaleen said, and he was most pleased with producing the GIF.
Responses on Stephen’s memorial page
Several responses on his memorial page stated that Stephen made more significant contributions throughout his tenure at CompuServe, praising him as a diligent worker. The latter had a significant impact on the company’s success.
Following Stephen’s retirement, the pair began traveling together. According to Kathaleen, one of the most memorable excursions was their honeymoon to the Grand Canyon. She warmly stated that she had never seen it before, and he was eager to show it to her. Additionally, she noted that the pair frequently went camping.
When he was at home, he enjoyed working on his model train set. We allocated an entire basement section to his train room when we built the house. Kathaleen claimed that he was always in charge of the layout’s design and electrical work.
Wilhite stated in the Times interview that one of his favorite GIFs is the dancing baby meme, which gained popularity before the phrases “memes” and “going viral” were commonly used. Thus, Mr. Wilhite here’s to you. We want to express our gratitude for inventing the picture format that enabled downloading color photos over dial-up pleasant before it became one of the internet’s languages.