Beloved GIF creator Stephen Wilhite dies at 74

0

mm um mm. Hmm hmm.

Beloved GIF creator Stephen Wilhite dies at 74

James Van Der Beek sobbing. The guy who blinks in disbelief. This disturbing dancing baby. For these GIFs and millions more, we have Stephen Wilhite to thank. slowly backing into a hedge should do the trick. Wilhite may not have known it when he created the first GIF in 1987, but his moving memes would rule the internet from the days of Web 1.0 until today, and likely for years to come. Wilhite, whose humble GIF changed the way we communicate online (and made it more fun), died on March 14. His wife, Kathaleen, told CNN that Wilhite died of complications from COVID-19. A stroke he suffered a few years ago weakened his right lung, she said. He was 74 years old. effectively, especially color images, according to Smithsonian Magazine. was born. The very first GIF was of a clip art plane hovering in a pixelated sky. Initially, GIFs were still images. But Wilhite had the foresight to make GIFs “expandable,” so web developers could add custom information to their own GIFs, Wired reported in 2017. Animated GIFs became popular starting in 1995 — and onwards. from there, GIFs took on a life of When GIFs ruled the internet, early GIFs weren’t pretty, but that was part of their charm. Websites would use flashing “under construction” signs to warn visitors that their work was incomplete, Vox reported on the GIF’s 30th anniversary in 2017. From Internet ephemera to go viral. Another dancing GIF, this time a cheering banana, became ubiquitous in the early 2000s. GIFs fell out of favor for a few years until the dawn of social networks like MySpace allowed users to implement GIFs on all their profiles. Tumblr has facilitated the creation and wide distribution of specific GIFs, many of which displace screenshots of notable moments in pop culture. Now GIFs for almost any occasion are easy to create or find with just a few clicks. ‘write a tweet, and sites like Giphy are living encyclopedias of all the GIFs the internet has ever used. He mostly enjoyed the offline life, as detailed in previous reports, preferring to camp and spend time outdoors with his family. A true internet user, he avoided most interviews and public appearances until 2013, when he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Webbys. , awards given by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to people who have made an impact on the internet. Instead of a speech, he instead accepted the award with a GIF, set to Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathu” soundtrack. stra”: “IT PRONOUNCES ‘JIF’ NOT ‘GIF.'”

James Van Der Beek sobbing. The guy who blink in disbelief. This disturbing dancing baby.

For these GIFs and millions more, we have Stephen Wilhite to thank.

GIFs, these looping animated images, are a universal language — when words fail, a clip of a cool cat spinning beats on a turntable Where Homer Simpson slowly backs into a hedge should do the trick. Wilhite might not have known it when he created the first GIF in 1987, but his moving memes would continue to rule the internet from the days of Web 1.0 until today, and likely for years to come. .

Wilhite, whose humble GIF changed the way we communicate online (and made it more fun), died March 14. His wife, Kathaleen, told CNN that Wilhite died of complications from COVID-19. A stroke he suffered a few years ago weakened his right lung, she said. He was 74 years old.

How Wilhite created the GIF

In the 1980s, Wilhite, then a developer at online service provider CompuServe, and his team were tasked with overcoming slow connection speeds, incompatible computer systems, and images that were too large to effectively send to another user. especially color images, depending on Smithsonian Magazine.

In 1987, Wilhite figured out how to compress images so they wouldn’t lose their sharpness, load quickly, and could appear on any computer – and the Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, was born.

The very first GIF was of a clip art plane hovering in a pixelated sky.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 21:;  Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF file, poses with an award backstage at the 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Webby Awards)

Stephen Lovekin

GIF inventor Steve Wilhite poses with an award backstage at the 17th Annual Webby Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on May 21, 2013 in New York City.

Initially, GIFs were still images. But Wilhite had the foresight to make GIFs “expandable”, so web developers could add custom information to their own GIFs, Wired reported in 2017. Animated GIFs became popular from 1995 – and from there GIFs took on a life of their own.

When GIFs ruled the internet

Early GIFs weren’t pretty, but that was part of their charm. Websites would use flashing “under construction” signs to warn visitors that their work was incomplete, Vox signaled on the GIF’s 30th anniversary in 2017. The aforementioned dancing baby, wearing only a diaper but still grooving, was one of the very first pieces of ephemera on the internet to go viral. Another dancing GIF, this time a enthusiastic bananabecame ubiquitous in the early 2000s.

GIFs fell out of favor for a few years until the dawn of social networks like MySpace allowed users to implement GIFs on all of their profiles. Tumblr has facilitated the creation and wide distribution of specific GIFs, many of which displace screenshots of notable moments in pop culture.

Now GIFs for almost any occasion are easy to create or find with just a few clicks. Twitter allows users to search for them when they tweet, and sites like Giphy are living encyclopedias of all the GIFs the internet has ever used.

Wilhite on how to pronounce “GIF”

Wilhite retired in 2001 after suffering a stroke the year before, the The New York Times reported in 2013. He mostly enjoyed the offline life, as detailed in previous reports, preferring to camp and spend time outdoors with his family.

A true internet user, he avoided most interviews and public appearances until 2013, when he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Webbysawards given by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to individuals who have made an impact on the internet.

Instead of a speech, he instead accepted the award with a GIF, to Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” soundtrack: “IT’S PRONOUNCED’JIF‘ NOT ‘GIF.'”

Share.

Comments are closed.