Rest in Peace, Stephen Wilhite

Jeslyn Cho, reporter

On March 14, 2022, Stephen Wihite, a true innovator of modern communication, passed away due to a fight against COVID- 19.

Stephen Wihite was the creator of GIFs. Also known as Graphics Interchange Format, GIFs have transformed society’s ways of digital communication and expression forever. Colorful, moving images of humorous cartoons and notable celebrities are remarkably used to describe almost every human emotion on the spectrum, from joy to despair.

The origin of GIFs can be traced back to the year 1987. Steve Wilhite and his team worked at CompuServe, a giant tech company. Wilhite used a compression algorithm to create a method of sharing vibrant image files without taking up too much space.

This revolutionary creation led him to win the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Webby Awards, where he clarified that “gif” was pronounced with a soft g sound. By the late 90’s, GIFs took the internet by storm and acted as a new means for visual communication.

In today’s age, younger generations especially love GIFs and are spread like rapid wildfire on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Discord. Sophomore Sabdy Cordon said, “My favorite GIF is one that has a cat riding a unicorn. It is applicable for all situations.

Sophomore Coco Zhang said, “My favorite GIF is the yellow emoticon adjusting its glasses in an active and emotional manner. I use it to express curiosity or to question someone’s intent about a foolish statement they made."

People say that a picture is worth a thousand words. And in our modern culture, we have Stephen Wihite to thank for honing the efficacy of pictures, which are able to perceive the emotions that words so often cannot.


Sophomore Milena Nguyen sends her favorite GIF to her friends on the communication platform, Discord.

Photo Credit: Jeslyn Cho

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