In the blink of an eye

So there’s really nothing new under the sun. When CompuServe gifs debuted in 1987, who would have guessed that the tiny file format would play a pivotal role in so many iterations of the Internet as we know it.

There’s a great history attached to those gifs.

Long before there were gifs…flickers and illusions

While the stereoscope allowed parallel images to be viewed as one still three-dimensional image, the zoetrope and locomotion pioneer Eadweard Muybridge’s zoopraxiscope along with the phenakistoscope were early animation devices that used the persistence of vision principle to create the illusion of motion.

gifs, illusions, digital animations, historic animation devices, technology,

gifs, illusions, digital animations, historic animation devices, technology,

How the 1841 phenakistoscope worked, according to Juxtapoz:

The phenakistoscope used a spinning disc attached vertically to a handle. Arrayed around the disc’s center were a series of drawings showing phases of the animation, and cut through it were a series of equally spaced radial slits. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the disc’s reflection in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images kept them from simply blurring together, so that the user would see a rapid succession of images that appeared to be a single moving picture.

Think flip books, remember those from childhood – sometimes the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks.

The modern gif

About 150-odd years later, thanks to more advanced software and hugely expanded palettes, gifs are now an art form capable of displaying highly creative digital experimentation.

gifs, illusions, digital animations, historic animation devices, technology,

gifs, illusions, digital animations, historic animation devices, technology,

If you like these types of illusions and retro devices, here’s an amazing site. Visit now, and often.

Gif images: Source unknown, borrowed from here. Modern gifs: © Matthew DeVito

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