Steve Wilhite, the author of the “jif” and certainly not the “gyfu”, has died

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At the age of 74, he died of complications caused by covid-19 Steve Wilhite. A man who did not achieve the glory of Bill Gates, but whose invention is used by almost everyone. In 1987, when he worked for CompuServe, he designed the Graphic Interchange Format (GIF).

He was revolutionary at the time. It displayed 256 colors, supported animations and used very efficient lossless LZW compression. Two years newer revision brought a transparent channel and improved animations. And despite the fact that GIF has been around for 35 years and has successors who can do the same and better, it is still widely used. One of them is PNG, which was created precisely because of the patent-protected LZW, which required fees to be paid from the supported software.

Legal protection of LZW definitively fell in 2004, since then the GIF can be used freely. And it still holds on to it precisely because it can handle all image applications and all web browsers. It is popular mainly because of the animations in the loops, which PNG did not offer at the base (however, there are extensions). Today, classic video can be used much better, but the Internet is too conservative a medium that sticks to outdated video or audio formats with nails just because they work and people are used to them.

After creating the GIF, Steve Wilhite worked on protocols and programs for transferring files and text messages. Some of his know-how may eventually have been used by AOL, which bought CompuServe in 1998 and dedicated data and chat. At the turn of the millennium, Wilhita suffered a heart attack and therefore retired.

For more than nine years, he was interrupted by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which presented him with the Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement on the Internet. He also made a highly quoted statement at the time. As an author, he always considered the GIF to be a “jif”, even though the entire Internet called it a “gyph”.

Source: NPR



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