The Morning After: The inventor of the GIF has passed away

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GIF inventor Stephen Wilhite has died of COVID-19 at age 74, NPR reports. He worked at CompuServe when he developed the Graphics Interchange Format, designed to enable photo transfer over slow modem connections. According to his wife, he invented the format almost single-handedly in 1987.

With limitations like 256 colors per animation, the format could have died out long ago. However, it was designed by Wilhite to store multiple frames, making it easy to share animated clips without the demands of a video format. After AOL bought CompuServe and let the patent expire, the GIF renaissance began with artists and Tumblr users. And so it went on.

Oh and it’s “JIF” with a soft “G,” according to Wilhite, which I consider to be the last word on the matter.

— Matt Smith

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