Stephen Wilhite, a computer scientist and the creator of the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) passed away from complications caused by COVID-19 on March 14. He was 74 years old.
Stephen invented the GIF in 1987, while employed as an engineer at CompuServe an early well known Internet Service Provider (ISP).
GIF or Graphics Interchange Format was designed to compress images to make them more efficient to download and use on the low speed connectivity affoarded by early dial-up modem. A side effect of the GIF compression mechaism allowed for simple image animation, from stacking images,.. the rest is history.
While GIF has been superceeded by other more efficient image compression and storage formats today, the animated GIF remains a well loved format for personal expression due to its simplicity and is still frequently used for communicating reactions, simple visual messages, jokes, and animated online memes.
Little did Stephen realise at the time that he was also creating a form of expression that continues to develop with the popularity and proliferation of short videos today.
The very first animated GIF image created by Stephen Wilhite was a picture of a jet aeroplane in flight.
Stephen received a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 in recognition for his work and its impact. Here's how he used his allotted five words in his acceptance speech.
One of Stephens' favoutite GIFs was the "Dancing Baby"