A Brief History of Wild Blue Pixel

I always wanted to be both an artist and a scientist. When I was little, I wanted to be a cartoonist and I was spellbound by questions about how the physical universe works. I won first prize in my grade school Science Fair with my lovingly crafted model of the Uranium atom, composed of dozens of carefully rolled and painted clay balls. 92 silver electrons danced fantastically on stiff wires emanating from a formidable black neutron and white proton nucleus. Walking home from school in 7th grade, I puzzled over such topics as:

  • Why should objects appear smaller when they are more distant from one’s eyes?
  • Do you and I see the same color even if we both call it “red”?
  • What’s outside the universe?

That same year (1967) my pal Steve and I created all the posters for our church dance canteens, featuring swirling geometric psychedelic designs.

I loved writing, attempting my first novel in 5th grade with my partner in various crimes, Martha: The Red Hot Mud Monsters, which was tragically lost in a mom-related cleaning episode. As a teenager, I bonded heavily 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, aspiring to develop my own creative writing. But I quickly realized I would have a much better chance at paying my bills doing technical writing. Throughout the 80’s, I produced a stack of crystal clear but dry-as-dust instruction manuals for software developers, which I made slightly more palatable by adding original icons to liven up solid pages of text, much to the dismay of nuts-and-bolts focused supervisors.

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 materials that had come with my brand new Apple Macintosh. I came across an extremely intriguing new term, the hyperlink. I was immediately struck by a vision of documentation freed from the shackles of numbered hard copy pages and tables of contents. Such a manual could be viewed on a computer, and “hyperlinked” words or phrases could take the reader to supplementary information elsewhere in the manual (and beyond???). When I got to work, I raced in to 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 took the opportunity for a tectonic shift and launched a freelance graphic design business using the very first and very primordial CorelDraw. I took a class to learn how to repair my own PC — and was soon up to my eyeballs studying computer science, physics, remote sensing and lots of math. I completed a BS in Applied Math and then an MS in Geography, where I used satellite imagery and MatLab to develop early detection algorithms for wildfire vulnerability in Sky Islands in southeastern Arizona.

But the other side of my brain had begun aching again, and wouldn’t quit.

On Thanksgiving Day in 2005, a friend begged me for help with her website. I knew nothing about updating a website, but she was beside herself. I finally sat down and followed the 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, 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
August 2020