My parents gave me a daily Dilbert calendar as a Christmas present. I keep it on my desk and really enjoy it. Plus, it gives my coworkers an excuse to come over and chat because they want to know what today’s comic is. This week, I had one that hit kind of close to home as it was about online dating.
I thought it was funny, but still presented some negative stigma to online dating. It led to a little bit of research which brought me tp a really interesting story. Brace yourselves; I’m about to hit you with some mind-blowing information:
Computer-based dating started in 1965.
Yep, you read that correctly. 1965. And get this: at the time, there was no negative stigma associated with it. Young adults were actually excited to receive their list of matches generated by the computer. There was none of this “computer dating means you’re desperate” ideology going on.
The company was called Operation Match and was founded by a Harvard student named Jeff Tarr and some of his friends (one of which went on to be a DC Circuit judge). They charged $3 for students to fill out a questionnaire with 75 questions about themselves and 75 about their ideal mate. (If you’ve ever joined an online dating site, this probably sounds familiar. Only now we have the technology to answer thousands of questions to screen our matches.) They paid a friend $100 to program a computer to find questionnaires with similar responses. Keep in mind the computer was the size of a room at this time and computer science did not even exist as a college major.
Within a couple weeks of submitting their questionnaire, students received a list of 6 matches and their contact information. At the time, participants stated that it was the best reason to call up a stranger. Nowadays, we get our matches instantly. On top of our matches, we also get whatever information they make public to us, including pictures.
Tarr and his friends had reached out to lonely students at single-sex colleges (which many were at the time). Though many students questioned whether or not the computer made good matches, they were still willing to meet people using this unique and intriguing medium. This led to the company generating the equivalent of $2 million today within it’s first 6 months. In 1968, they sold the company, after soliciting over a million respondents and the technology was then used to match college roommates.
So if you still have a negative view toward online dating, let me just say that while it’s not guaranteed to provide the “spark,” computer-based dating has 50 years of experience introducing people to potential mates. Do you have 50 years of experience doing anything?
Slater, Dan. (2013, January) Love in the technology era. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2013/01/13/love-technology-era/rhd89MA2B0RMzYJm0CUJjN/story.html