Stephen Wilhite, the creator of GIF, one of the world’s most famous graphic file formats, has died at the age of 74 from a Covid-19 infection .
The wife of the deceased, Kathaleen , has confirmed to NPR that his death occurred in a hospital near Milford, Ohio (United States). Specifically, Wilhite died on March 14, as can be seen in her obituary.
This computer scientist rose to fame when he created the GIF format ( Graphics Interchange Format ) in the 1980s, when he provided his services for the company CompuServe, one of the first computer network access services in the United States .
So, Wilhite intended to use them as a way to distribute high-quality, high-resolution color graphics at a time when the Internet was just beginning.
“He invented the GIF at home and took it to work to perfect it. He would calculate everything in his head and then program it on the computer,” his wife explained to The Verge.
In 2013, more than a decade after Wilhite retired following a stroke, he was awarded the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his popular contribution to computing.
It was at this event that Wilhite took the opportunity to resolve one of the great debates generated as a result of the birth of GIFs about their pronunciation: ” GIF is pronounced with a soft ‘G’, similar to ‘jif'” , he explained.
Since its inception, these types of files have been used as an alternative form of communication through a succession of small clips.
One of the most remembered and oldest, Wilhite’s own favorite as confirmed in an interview with Times magazine, is the meme of a baby dancing on a black background, which has survived to this day.
Over time, GIFs have been perfected and have managed to enter platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp -developed by Meta- , among others, where they are commonly used.