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‘He contributed to shaping the trendy global’: gif inventor Stephen Wilhite dies upon getting Covid | Technology


If an image is price one thousand phrases, then a gif is price hundreds of thousands. The symbol document structure has been a defining part of web tradition for many years, with glass-raising DiCaprios and mic-dropping Obamas facilitating self-expression in a faceless virtual global. And we’ve got one guy to thank for the entire jokes, snark and reward: Stephen Wilhite, inventor of the gif, who died final week, elderly 74.

Wilhite, who lived in Milford, Ohio, gotten smaller Covid two weeks sooner than his loss of life, his spouse, Kathaleen Wilhite, instructed NPR.

A lifelong coder, Stephen Wilhite created the gif in 1987 whilst running at CompuServe. The compressed symbol recordsdata had been helpful at a time when web connections dragged. “If you wish to have lossless, compressed graphics, there may be not anything higher than gif,” mentioned Sandy Trevor, who controlled Wilhite’s staff, to the Daily Dot in 2012.

man and woman pose for camera
Steve Wilhite attends the Webby awards in New York in 2013. His spouse, Kathaleen Wilhite, mentioned developing the gif was once his proudest success. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Wilhite “invented gif all through himself – he in fact did that at house and taken it into paintings after he perfected it”, mentioned Kathaleen Wilhite to the Verge. “He would work out the whole thing privately in his head after which cross to the town programming it at the laptop.” It was once his proudest success, she mentioned.

The identical 12 months, an replace ended in animated graphics. “I feel the primary gif was once an image of a aircraft. It was once a very long time in the past,” Stephen Wilhite instructed the Daily Dot in 2012. Indeed, in line with Giphy, the go-to web page for gif seekers, it was once this symbol:

Wilhite labored for Compuserve till 2001, when he had a stroke. Meanwhile, gifs’ recognition took off, together with on early social media websites equivalent to MySpace. By 1996, the “dancing child” symbol – one in all Wilhite’s favorites, he instructed the New York Times – was once plastered around the the internet and hooked up to emails. In 2012, “gif” was once dubbed phrase of the 12 months through Oxford American Dictionaries. The subsequent 12 months, the New York Times referred to as the structure “the classy calling card of contemporary Internet tradition”.

The subsequent 12 months, Wilhite won a Webby lifetime success award. Called to the degree, he maintained a poker face as he delivered an acceptance “speech” in an acceptable structure:

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