Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF, passes away

Steve Wilhite, inventor of the GIF, passes away

Computer scientist Steve Wilhite, who invented the GIF, has passed away.

Mr Wilhite came up with the format in 1987 during the days of the early, pre-web internet.

He intended the Graphic Interchange Format (GIF) as a way to distribute “high-quality, high-resolution graphics.”

In 2012, he received a Webby Lifetime Achievement award for his invention.

While accepting his award, Mr Wilhite weighed in forcibly on how the acronym should be pronounced.

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” he said.

“They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G’, pronounced ‘jif’. End of story.”

Both pronunciations continue, however, as language continues to evolve after words are invented.

Mr Wilhite once nominated the famous Dancing Baby as his favourite use of the format. The image appeared on an episode of the 1990s sitcom Ally McBeal, on message boards, and in emails.

Mr Wilhite’s widow Kathleen told The Verge that the computer scientist invented the format at home.

“He invented GIF all by himself — he actually did that at home and brought it into work after he perfected it,” she said.

“He would figure out everything privately in his head and then go to town programming it on the computer.”

Mr Wilhite was aged 74 and passed away on 14 March due to complications stemming from COVID-19.


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