GIF inventor Stephen Wilhite has died

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GIF inventor Stephen Wilhite has died from COVID-19 on the age of 74 together with his spouse Kathaleen at his bedside, NPR has reported. He labored at CompuServe when he developed the “Graphics Interchange Format,” designed to permit photograph transfers over gradual modem connections. GIFs have since grow to be synonymous with brief meme movies, no matter the way you pronounce it (although it is “JIF” with a smooth “G,” according to Wilhite himself). 

Wilhite invented the GIF in 1987 nearly on his personal, in keeping with his partner. It was designed as an “exchange and display mechanism for graphic images” at a time when web speeds had been glacial in comparison with right this moment. “He really did that at residence and introduced it into work after he perfected it,” Kathaleen informed The Verge. “He would figure out everything privately in his head and then go to town programming it on the computer.”

With limitations like 256 colours per animation, the format may simply have died out a very long time in the past. It had one other trick, although — it was designed by Wilhite to retailer a number of frames, making it pure for brief animations. It took on a lifetime of its personal after AOL bought CompuServe and let the patent expire, significantly with artists and Tumblr customers, in keeping with a Daily Dot explainer.

Besides growing GIFs, Wilhite made different key contributions to CompuServe that helped it grow to be the web juggernaut of its time. “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,” mentioned co-worker Ty Wait on Wilhite’s obituary page. 

Wilhite retired in 2000 to pursue his hobbies and pursuits, together with journey and mannequin trains. He at all times got here again to his old flame of programming, nonetheless — he was nonetheless doing that simply weeks earlier than he was struck unwell with COVID, Kathaleen informed NPR. “”He was most likely one of many kindest, humble males you have ever met,” she said. “I’ve been studying about [the responses online] all afternoon, and I am unable to even inform you the way it comforts you.”

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