Although you may not have heard of Stephen Wilhite’s name, you certainly know his invention: the GIF format, which are short clips of repeating animations. The creator has sadly passed away at the age of 74.
The Life of Stephen Wilhite
Stephen Wilhite was born on March 3, 1948 in Ohio. He worked as a computer scientist for the American company CompuServe. There he also headed a team that developed the GIF format that is widely used today. His widow, Kathaleen Wilhite, said he practically invented it on his own and often took the work home with him.
In 2013, after retiring in the early 2000s, Wilhite received a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his invention and its impact on modern internet culture. According to his widow, he liked to spend his time traveling and camping.
Wilhite died on March 14, 2022 in an Ohio hospital of complications from Covid-19 disease.
The internet says goodbye
Especially on Twitter, many people are currently sharing their favorite GIFs to say goodbye to Stephen Wilhite. For example, Tech Reporter Sean Hollister posted a classic:
link to Twitter content
Incidentally, according to Wilhite, the very first GIF was a looping clip of an airplane, unfortunately not described in detail.
The question about the name: There has long been a lively debate about how to actually pronounce »GIF«. Wilhite himself insisted that it’s actually pronounced like the well-known peanut butter brand, JIF. So “jif”. But even he, as the inventor of the format, could not settle the dispute: To this day, fans of the hard G argue that the name derives from “Graphics Interchange Format” – and should therefore be pronounced with a G as in “Graphic”.
We, the GameStar editors, also have a lot of GIFs. You can find some for example here at Giphy.