Developer Steve Wilhite and his team at tech giant CompuServe had a problem to solve: how to make a computer display an image while also saving memory. It was 1987, four years before the advent of the World Wide Web, when users who wanted to access email or transfer files did so with hourly subscriptions from companies like CompuServe. Then as now, the issue was space. How could a color image file be shared without taking up too much of the computer’s memory? Wilhite found a way to do so using a compression algorithm (more on this soon) combined with image parameters like the number of available colors (256). His new creation could be used for exchange images between computers, and he called it Graphics Interchange Format. The GIF was born.
(For the record, Wilhite pronounces his creation with a soft G, using a play on the peanut butter ad as a demonstration: “Choosy developers choose GIF.” He reiterated the point when he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Webby Awards. But that has hardly settled the debate, as many others insist on the hard “g” as in the word “gift” but without the “t”. Even dictionaries like Oxford English have unhelpfully declared both pronunciations valid.)
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Sunday, January 23, 2022