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’s Friday night dance canteens. Our swirling geometric psychedelic designs provided the perfect backdrop to pubescent teenagers doing the Frug and drinking Dr. Pepper. Over the heady scent of Magic Markers, Steve and I 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? But I digress.

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 instruction manuals, clandestinely injecting a graphic here and there to break up the seas of dry-as-dust text.

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 envisioned a new world where documentation could be 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 just the click of a mouse. This was a revolution!! 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.

Thanksgiving Day 2005, a friend had a problem with her website and begged me for help. At that point in time, I knew nothing and had zero experience with websites under the hood. But she was beside herself and persistent, and I was a little curious. 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 May 2024