A Brief History of Wild Blue Pixel

(The TMI Version)

I always wanted to be both an artist and a scientist. When I was little, I wanted to be a cartoonist, I was spellbound by questions about the physical universe, my favorite toys were puzzles and I bothered everyone with my questions.

One of my first achievements in life was my lovingly crafted model of the Uranium atom, composed of a multitude of clay balls, rolled and painted with painstaking precision. Stiff wires radiating from a massive nucleus and holding aloft 92 quivering electrons, bore irrefutable witness to the magnificent glory of Uranium — and won me first prize in the Wynnewood Road School Science Fair.

In seventh grade, my pal Steve and I created all the posters for our church dance canteens, featuring swirling geometric psychedelic designs. Over the heady scent of Magic Markers, we pondered such questions as: Why do objects appear smaller when they are more distant from one’s eyes? Do you and I see the same color even though we may both call it hot pink? What’s outside the universe? (The most hackneyed of the big questions, and yet – perpetually compelling.)

I loved writing from an early age. In 5th grade I co-authored a novel with my partner-in-mischief, Martha: The Red Hot Mud Monsters. Alas, the manuscript was tragically lost in a mom cleaning frenzy. As a teenager, I bonded with my guitar and discovered songwriting. In my first bout of college in the late 70’s, I majored in English, immersing myself in the works of literary geniuses across the ages, aspiring to develop my own creative genius.  I finally conceded to the less ideal reality that I would have a much better — ok, any — chance of paying my bills doing technical writing. Through the 80’s, I worked for software developers,  dutifully churning out dry-as-dust instruction manuals.

One cloudy day in 1989, back when the Web was just a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee‘s eye, on my early morning train ride to work in Center City Philadelphia, I was reading documentation describing the Hypercard, which had come with my brand new Apple Macintosh. I came across an extremely intriguing term: the hyperlink.

In a lightning bolt, I could see a new world in documentation – documentation freed from the drudgery of numbered hard copy pages, indexes and tables of contents. Such a manual would be viewable on a computer, and hyperlinked words or phrases would take the reader to supplementary information elsewhere in the manual (and beyond? ? ?) in a click of the mouse. When I got to work, I raced into my boss’ office to share this blazing epiphany. She mulled for a moment, then said, “Neat idea, Susan, but a little far-fetched for our needs.”

When I moved to Arizona in the early 90’s, I grabbed the opportunity for a tectonic shift and launched a freelance graphic design business using the primordial CorelDraw 1.0. Increased reliance on my IBM AT motivated a community college class in PC maintenance. When the smoke cleared, I had a bachelor’s in Applied Math and a master’s in Geography/Remote Sensing. My 2004 master’s thesis used satellite imagery with MatLab to develop algorithms for early detection of wildfire vulnerability in southeastern Arizona Sky Islands. In 2006, I created a website to publish my thesis.

But I’m jumping ahead a bit.

Thanksgiving Day 2005: a friend had a problem with her website and begged me for help. At that point in time, I knew nothing about and had zero experience with the backend of websites. But she was beside herself and persistent. I finally sat down to awkwardly follow step-by-step instructions to FTP into the remote server. Not only did I miss the dinner I was supposed to go to that evening, but I lost a couple weeks of time altogether, so taken was I with this mind-blowing technology that marries both sides of the brain.

In April 2007, Wild Blue Pixel was born.

Susan Taunton
Last edited February 2024