Happy Birthday, Eadweard Muybridge, You Have a Lot of GIFs to Answer For

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Happy birthday, Eadweard Muybridge. You were born in 1830 and you died in 1904. I want to give you a quick update on what's happened since you took your leave of the mortal coil. 

First, the series of images you made of that horse galloping are still what you're best known for. Sorry about that. 

Second, you rule the Internet! Your specific images are not that widely reproduced, but your style of motion-studies is trendier than a penny farthing in 1892 1882!* 

While you were nominally working in a scientific vein, the principle you operated on has proven to be general: viewing a series of frames in succession, we see things that we don't in real-time or in a still image. Nowadays, people use moving images called animated GIFs to isolate and reproduce small snippets of movement that can *say* something in the right context, or that are simply funny, like your work with that ostrich or those naked guys fake boxing.

Anyway, happy 183rd, Eadweard. That's a lot of candles. 

Oh, and other than your method's incipient popularity, things are pretty much the same, except Europe lost all its colonies, pornography is easier to access and you can put the text of all the books ever written into a little drive that fits in your pocket. Oh, and we went to the moon a few times, though we haven't been back for a while. 

* (Duh, the safety bicycle displaced the penny farthing and other designs in the early 1890s. Come on, Madrigal, get your bicycle history straight!)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/04/happy-birthday-eadweard-muybridge-you-have-a-lot-of-gifs-to-answer-for/274832/