GIF creator Steve Wilhite died of COVID-19 complications

Steve Wilhite, the computer scientist who created the popular GIF file format in 1987, died last Monday in intensive care from complications from COVID-19, a report said.

He was 74.

Wilhite contracted the virus just two weeks before his death and was hospitalized near the home of his wife, Kathaleen Wilhite, in Milford, Ohio said NPR.

“It came suddenly. He woke up one morning and said, “Honey, I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good at all,’” Kathaleen recalled.

“And he had a fever and was throwing up so bad. And then the next day he started coughing badly,” she told the publication.

Kathaleen said she was at home when she received a call from the hospital last Monday telling her to go there. Her husband died shortly after her arrival.

“It’s just so bad. It’s just so tragic,” she told NPR.

Steve invented the Graphics Interchange Format while working at CompuServe in the late 80’s.

The format, which allowed for simple animations and took advantage of fast download speeds, became widespread in the infancy of the Internet as many applications and operating systems supported it.

Steve Wilhite clarified that his famous file format was pronounced
Steve Wilhite clarified that his famous file format was pronounced “jif”.
Bryan Bedder

By the turn of the century, GIFs were ubiquitous on MySpace before being used to create viral memes in the early 2010s.

In recent years, GIFs have experienced a renaissance as they have been adopted by modern social media and SMS platforms.

Despite its widespread use, the format is mispronounced by most people.

In a 2013 interview with The New York Times, Wilhite clarified that the word doesn’t contain a hard “G” and said it should be pronounced like the peanut butter brand “jif.”

His expertise was denounced by then-President Barack Obama, who said he would pronounce it without the last letter as a “gift.”

“That is my official position. I’ve thought about it for a long time,” Obama tweeted.

Wilhite was once America Online’s chief architect and received the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award, according to his obituary. GIF creator Steve Wilhite died of COVID-19 complications


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