Computer scientist and creator of the GIF, Stephen Wilhite, has died at the age of 74 due to complications from COVID-19.
According to the Verge, who spoke to Wilhite's wife Kathaleen, he was surrounded by family when he died. An obituary page created for Wilhite is filled with messages, even from those who say they didn't know him personally.
The page says of Wilhite, “even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man.”
As Now This News reported, Wilhite was a key part of the creation of the Graphics Interchange Format, an animated image format that is now ubiquitous in its use and familiarity in everyday life on social media and the internet as a whole. He created the format while working for the internet service provider CompuServe in the 1980s.
Wilhite earned a lifetime achievement award from the Webby Awards in 2013 for his contribution to online culture.
The pronunciation of the acronym has long been a debate with Wilhite telling the New York Times in 2013 that the Oxford English Dictionary accepts both the soft "G" sound, as is often used, pronounced more like "jif," as well as the hard "G" sound as in "gif." He also told the Times that "They are wrong." He said, "End of story," for those who might disagree, insisting that the pronunciation is with the soft "G," sound like the peanut butter brand is pronounced.
He then reiterated that strongly held belief on the pronunciation while accepting his Webby Award.
Watch his acceptance speech in 2013, when instead of using the five words alloted to winners for their acceptance speech, he allowed a GIF to do the communicating to the audience for him: