GIF creator Stephen Wilhite has died

stephen wilhite gif creator
(Image credit: Stephen Lovekin via Getty Images)

Stephen Wilhite, who created the GIF format back in the 1980s, has died from complications related to Covid-19, according to a report by The Verge. Wilhite was 74, and leaves behind his wife, Kathaleen, as well as their children and grandchildren.

An employee at the early internet company CompuServe during the late '80s, the GIF was one of Wilhite's proudest achievements, according to his wife Kathaleen. Wilhite left CompuServe in 2001 and subsequently retired, devoting his remaining years to his family and hobbies such as camping and model train building.

The GIF, once merely a practical way of displaying animation despite the sluggish download speeds of the early internet, is now a ubiquitous part of online life. Easy-to-use creation tools and massive virtual libraries have turned GIFs into valuable tools for expression and communication on the internet. Wilhite received a lifetime achievement award at the 2013 Webby Awards for his invention of the GIF.

It's a bit mind-boggling to imagine: a computer scientist all the way back in the 1980s laying the groundwork for a veritable language of short videos that, in all likelihood, will continue to be used by future generations he will never meet. Stephen Wilite's obituary and the remembrances of people who knew him can be found on the Megie Funeral Home website.

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Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.