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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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