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RIP Stephen Wilhite, The Creator Of The GIF

The Verge- Stephen Wilhite, one of the lead inventors of the GIF, died last week from COVID at the age of 74, according to his wife, Kathaleen, who spoke to The Verge. He was surrounded by family when he passed. His obituary page notes that “even with all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind, and good man.”

Stephen Wilhite worked on GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, which is now used for reactions, messages, and jokes, while employed at CompuServe in the 1980s. He retired around the early 2000s and spent his time traveling, camping, and building model trains in his basement. 

CompuServe introduced them in the late 1980s as a way to distribute “high-quality, high-resolution graphics” in color at a time when internet speeds were glacial compared to what they are today. “He invented GIF all by himself — he actually did that at home and brought it into work after he perfected it,” Kathaleen said. “He would figure out everything privately in his head and then go to town programming it on the computer.”

I saw this news pop up on my timeline just now and figured we here at Barstool had to pay respects to an absolute legend of the internet game considering our boss invented the internet and all. 

As an Old that actually remembers when the World Wide Web blew up in the 90s, I can tell you just how important GIFs were back in the day. Even though our basic brains were still trying to comprehend how the fuck we were able to exchange information with people on the other side of the country if not the world (AKA go into chat rooms and fake our a/s/l to have cybersex with total strangers that were lying as much as we were), slogging through all that plain text and collection of static images got old pretty quick. GIFs were able to give a little bit of life to your screen without slowing down your computer to a halt considering it took roughly 100 hours for even a 30 second video to load on your dial up connection. Even seeing something basic like an internet browser's logo in motion convinced me I was living in the future.

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Stephen Wilhite would be an Internet Hall of Famer if the GIF faded away once Y2K hit. But the GIF made an unlikely comeback with Twitter, memes, and all the other tomfoolery us assholes have done over the last decade or so. 

Now Stephen wasn't perfect. Because for a man that may have been as great as his prized invention, he clearly had no idea the  correct way to pronounce the amazing technology he created.

“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

That's fine though since I'm pretty sure most of the world has ignored Stephen's words and agreed to call it Gif with a hard G like yanno the word GIFT.

But that's not what this blog is about. It's about saying good bye to someone that changed the world for the better. Now let's pay our respects to the massive impact of his life with some of the classics, both old and new.

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You know what? I'm even going to bring back some of my old Remaking The GIFs in honor of this king of the World Wide Web.