GIF – The creator of popular image format, Graphics Interchange Format (GIF), Steve Wilhite, died on Wednesday at age 74 after battling COVID-19 complications, his wife, Kathaleen Wilhite told newsmen.
Born on March 4th, 1948, Wilhite spawned millions of memes via his invention of the humble GIF, a bitmap image format that tends to express more emotion than ordinary still image. Through Steve’s creation in 1987, GIF are graphical representations that are more emotive than pictures but less when compared to video clips, especially in length.
The Computer Scientist and GIF innovator contracted COVID-19 on March 1, 2022, shortly after which his wife also tested positive for the deadly virus.
“I think the first GIF was the picture of a plane. It was a long time ago,” Steve told the Daily Dot in a rare interview via Facebook in May 2012.
“It came on suddenly. He woke up one morning and he said, ‘Honey, I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good at all.’ And he was running a fever, throwing up so badly. And then the next day he started coughing badly,” Kathaleen told reporters in Ohio over the phone Wednesday night.
Also feeling sick from COVID-19, Kathaleen arranged for the GIF creator to be taken to a hospital near their home in Milford, Ohio, where he was treated with antibiotics before being placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
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According to her, she couldn’t see him because of her diagnosis. She recounted that Steve was ultimately placed in a coma while she tested negative at about March 10 and was able to be by his bedside.
She was later allowed to go home until 4days after when she received a call from the hospital. Steve didn’t make it.
Steve Wilhite’s team at CompuServe developed the GIF in 1987, years before the format became a signature feature of the early web and recently a go-to means for exchanging emotive jokes, memes and reactions on social media.
In 2013, he received a Webby Lifetime Achievement award, using the occasion to settle a long-running humorous debate about the proper pronunciation of the acronym. It’s pronounced “jif,” he communicated — via the use of a GIF.
“Even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man,” Wilhite’s obituary read.
There is hardly a smartphone user in the world today that has not heard about GIF. If they know the right pronunciation of GIF is another question. However, everyone would have seen, interacted with or even shared a GIF at one time or the other before Steve passed.
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