The GIF’s father is dead – and it’s pronounced “JIF”!

Steve Wilhite, the creator of GIF, has died at the age of 74. He created the GIF format, which is still important today.

The web mourns the loss of Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the “Graphics Interchange Format”, or GIF for short. As has only just become known, Wilhite died on March 14, 2022 at the age of 74 after contracting Covid 19. According to this memorial page on the web, Wilhite was also buried on March 21st. On this page, his relatives say:

“Steve retired as America Online’s chief architect, was the inventor of GIF, and received the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in New York. He was an avid camper and loved traveling and camping. Despite all his accomplishments, he remained a very humble, kind and good man.”

Steve Wilhite was honored for his lifetime achievement at The Webby Awards in May 2013. Wilhite invented the GIF format in 1987, which was then introduced a short time later as a bitmap graphic format by his then employer CompuServe.

He once explained that he invented the format to help his company display color weather maps. His first GIF, he said, was an animated paper airplane.

Today, GIFs continue to play a major role, especially in displaying animated images on websites and social networks. The entire meme culture on the internet was built on GIF.

It’s called “JIF” and not “GIF”

What caused amusement at the award ceremony at the time was that Wilhite didn’t give a long speech, but instead had an animated GIF with a five-word message displayed on a large screen: “It’s pronounced ‘JIF’ not ‘GIF'” (ie “es ‘JIF’ is pronounced, not ‘GIF'”) was his short speech to those present at the time. Here the video:

Up until this point, there had been a long discussion on the web about whether GIF should be pronounced with a hard G or with a soft G. The fact that “GIF” is an abbreviation for “Graphics Interchange Format” and that the letters contained in abbreviations are usually pronounced individually (“G”, “I”, “F “). Oxford American Dictionaries named GIF Word of the Year 2012, emphasizing that GIF can be used both as a noun and as a verb. And when pronouncing both “gif” and “jif” are allowed.

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