Stephen Wilhite, the computer scientist who created the GIF, has died at age 74 from COVID-19.
Wilhite is being recognised online as a man who single handedly changed the internet. He will be remembered for his intelligence, vision and a pioneer of computer science.
“Steve was always coming up with new and better ways of doing thing [sic]. He will be remembered as a true visionary,” said a former colleague Dave Eastburn on Stephen’s online memorial.
“I greatly admired his intelligence and perseverance as he consistently created software products that were woven into CompuServe’s tapestry of offerings for corporate, hobbyist, and home consumers,” said another former colleague Ty Wait. “I will always treasure having had the opportunity to have him as a colleague.”
It was in 1987 that Wilhite and his team at tech giant CompuServe invented the now famous GIF — decades before it became mainstream.
Standing for Graphics Interchange Format, Wilhite created the GIF using a compression algorithm combined with image parameters, allowing for a computer to display a coloured image without taking up too much computer space.
In 2013, Wilhite was awarded the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his invention, where he used the opportunity to fiercely correct the pronunciation of “gif”.
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story,” explained Wilhite.