Computer Love: Sex, Social Order, and Technological Matchmaking at the Dawn of the Electronic Age, 1950-1979

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 By Marie Hicks

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 1 Abstract: Although online dating has only recently become culturally acceptable and widespread, using computers to make romantic matches has a long history. This paper explores the mid-twentieth century origins of computer matchmaking to argue for the importance of using sexuality as a lens of analysis in the history of computing.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 2 For Valentine’s Day, 1961, the cartoonist Charles Addams—of Addams Family fame—drew a futuristic cover for the New Yorker. It showed a massive, wall-sized computer, with hundreds of blinking lights, ejecting a card with a red heart on it for its woman operator, who was dwarfed by the computer’s hulking form.[1] The drawing of the computer was supposedly based on the huge SSEC mainframe that IBM had shown off in its Madison Avenue showroom in New York City from 1948-1952.[2] But the reason that it was making an appearance on the cover of the New Yorker almost a decade later had less to do with the specific computer in question, and more to do with what computer technology, by the early 1960s, was coming to represent: a challenge to men’s capacities and talents.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 01CharlesAddamsCartoon1961

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 2 By 1961, mainframes had crept into the popular consciousness through news reports and advertising. With this came unease about what these new machines could actually do, and what sorts of tasks they should do. “There are fewer and fewer operations today that a man can do which a well educated computer cannot do faster an more accurately,” a columnist wrote in the London Times, synthesizing the growing cultural anxiety about computers.[3] Newspaper articles, which referred to computers as “giant brains” early on, often fanned the flames of competition between man and machine, by comparing what a computer could do in a certain amount of time with what a person could do. By the 1960s there was an anxiety that computers would eventually take over most intellectual tasks and perhaps even more than that.

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7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 In the Anglo-American world computer operators tended to be women, and the idea that these masculine-identified machines might—as proxies for real men—sexually harass office workers figured into jokes and cartoons of the era quite often.

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9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 1 Reminiscence from a worker at an early British computing company—the company that, in fact, created the first electronic business computer—described how his company bucked the norm of hiring female operators. Women, it was thought, would need a special women’s officer in the company to attend to their needs, and if they were going to work in machine rooms and do shift work overnight with men, it would be unseemly and potentially distracting. Furthermore, he joked, the tape reels were so high that if a woman reached up to change them it might “might snap her bra straps!” Of course, the reason this specific company’s computer operator jobs were earmarked for men had everything to do with the particular career opportunities they afforded, rather than having to do with women’s needs.[4]

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 4 Though heterosexual men’s fantasies often impacted how women were viewed in machine rooms, that paled in comparison to the growing interest in actually using new electronic machines as romantic middlemen. Investigating the discourses surrounding early British and American computer matchmaking systems reveals the cultural and technological undercurrents that made this a popular way of using computing power from early in the electronic age. It also sheds light on important factors influencing the design of computer matchmaking systems that persist through the present day.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 1 As long as there have been computers capable of it, enterprising lonely hearts have tried to create matchmaking programs. Even before computers were actually up to the task matchmaking “software” existed: some of the earliest computer matchmaking services did not use a computer at all, but secretly shuffled and paired up questionnaires manually. In some respects, this was nothing new: from personal ads to marriage bureaus, technologies for finding mates existed long before computers. What was new, however, was the idea that computerized dating and marital matchmaking could somehow make a messy and imperfect emotional process into a clean, scientific, and rational one. Currently, the online match-making industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, though online matchups account for fewer than 5% of all marriages for instance, according to the Pew Research Center.[5] Many still advertise their services with the idea that their algorithms offer better matches and create more compatible pairings than one could attain through personal choice alone.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 1 On a deeper level, this history is important because it allows us to theorize how sexuality intersects with the historiography of computing. Though often seen as being at odds, recent scholarship on computing and sexuality—ike Donna Drucker’s work on computing’s important role in defining the “Kinsey Scale” and Jacob Gaboury’s work on gay male computing pioneers—has shown that sexuality does have important material impacts on computing, as well as the reverse.[6] The history of women and gender in computing, which has grown dramatically in the last decade as a field of inquiry, points the way for historians of computing to begin contending with the importance of sexuality. Since gender and sexuality are overlapping, connecting categories participate in defining the other. If gender plays a formative role in the history of computing, it behooves us to investigate how sexuality influences our understanding of computer history as well. Yet, up to this point, historians of computing have paid relatively little attention to the ways in which sexuality molded outcomes and determined patterns in the history of computing.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 2 Computer dating is one good place to start because it is a topic whose very nature requires a discussion of sexuality, as well as computing. It is also a topic, however, whose popular history fails to address or theorize the relationship between sexuality and computing, instead focusing on describing the various “firsts” of young, mostly American men who “revolutionized” dating by adding yet another set of machines into the mix. Already dating and mating was intertwined with technology by the mid-twentieth century—everything from cars, to telephones, to movie theatres, to photography and postal mail facilitated sexual matches. But electronic computers seemed to represent a totally new kind of technological intervention in men’s and women’s social lives because they promised to take some of the responsibility of choice out of the process of dating and marriage, and to do so using means that would be scientific and therefore inarguably correct.

The Traditional Starting Point, Reconsidered: Operation Match

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Perhaps the most popular entry point into the history of computer dating is the story of the “Operation Match” program begun by two Harvard students and an outside partner in late 1964. They came up with the idea while “discussing the irrationality of two particular social evils: the blind date and the mixer.” They recalled that “somewhere in the conversation one of them asked if computers might not be useful in solving the problem.”[7]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Although these young men are often depicted as socially progressive, or at least socially adventurous, in popular historical accounts of computer matchmaking, they were instead “fairly conservative” as described by the Harvard Crimson student newspaper at the time.[8] The Crimson reporter who talked to them at length for an in-depth article related that the young men weren’t, for instance, keen on the idea of letting Radcliffe students into the main, at that point men-only, undergraduate library. Nor were they happy with the idea of sharing the other Harvard amenities, like the better dining halls and dormitories, that were reserved for men before the University finally went fully co-educational in the early 1970s.[9] The two Harvard students who were the president and vice-president of their newly-set-up computerized dating company—called the Compatibility Research Corporation—apparently saw no irony wanting to keep women undergraduates banned from communal spaces at Harvard, while simultaneously developing a complicated system designed to help themselves and other young men find women to date.

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17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 This contradiction, while somewhat funny at first, points to a deeper issue at work in the design of many early computerized dating services. The point of the computerized service was to centralize control over matchmaking in the hands of the straight-identified, white, affluent young men who designed the system. They came up with the “relevant” questions and designed the questionnaires and the matchmaking algorithms. They determined the parameters of what made a good date and who should be matched with whom. These young bachelors were anything but impartial. Most started dating services in part because they wanted to use their own systems to help themselves and their friends. But a more important point is that, at least in the case of Operation Match, these young men wanted a way to “get” women without actually having to spend time in women’s company. A thinly veiled form of misogyny undergirded the design of their system, and their business model. And Operation Match was a successful business. It got nationwide participation and publicity, and even appeared on CBS television’s “To Tell the Truth” in its first year of operation.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Interestingly, computerized dating, so often assumed to be a uniquely American invention, had already been used in European countries to arrange special mixers, and the founders of Operation Match actually took their inspiration from there, having heard that these European matchmaking businesses were “making a sizable profit.”[10] In the second year of Operation Match, roughly 70,000 college students all across the US sent in completed questionnaires and three dollars per person. Operation Match set up offices in New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bloomington, Detroit, and Boston to advertise their services and distribute questionnaires. In their Cambridge office headquarters they employed 3 secretaries to do the work of data processing and accounting and bought time on an Avco 1790 computer to collate responses.[11] The founders estimated, perhaps inflating the numbers, that they would take in $1.5 million by March of their second year. “There is no denying,” concluded the Crimson reporter, that these young men, “have, before anyone else, developed a very interesting, very profitable by-product of the modern technological revolution.”[12]

Neglected Undercurrents

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 2 But early computer matchmaking was not used simply to pair up individuals likely to have some fun together, or perhaps fall in love, but also to implicitly do things like strengthen traditional forms of marriage and the patriarchal family. It did not so much aim to revolutionize as stabilize society by creating stable, happy marriages that might turn back the rising tide of divorce. As divorcees proliferated, computer matchmaking found more women acolytes: across the Atlantic, British women were becoming more interested in computer dating. Throughout the 1960s, rising divorce rates threatened to upend the patterns of straight (or straight-acting) men’s and women’s lives, and particularly to disrupt the economic lives of young women who still usually had to choose between work and having a family. Once that choice was made in favor of family, it was very hard to return to having a career and living independently. By 1971 the number of divorced women had increased by more than 60 percent, peaking in the 35-49 age group, and by the late 1970s one in every 15 British marriages would end in divorce.[13]

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Because the heyday of computer dating occurred before women in Britain even had equal pay, the economic aspects of this technology impinged upon its social goals. Women were still segregated into sections of the labor force that only allowed them to make much less money than men of the same age, usually with few or no prospects for career progression. In fact, marriage was an economic necessity for many women. More than that, it had only been a matter of less than thirty years since women were legally allowed to be married and work at the same time in most white-collar British workplaces.[14] Only in 1946, for instance, did the British government lift the Civil Service marriage bar. They had failed to remove the bar before World War II, pointing to divided opinion within labor unions, but after the war the main clerical union vociferously supported the measure because its membership was now majority women.[15] As women entered the workforce in greater numbers, the idea that women had to choose between a job and being dependent on the male breadwinner or wage of a husband became more and more contested source. Nonetheless, women in the 1960s were stuck between dependence on a husband and low-paid job prospects.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 As one woman columnist writing in the Times in the late sixties put it, “we’re in a no man’s land between emancipation and equality” right now.[16]

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23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 1 She went on to discuss the connections between technological progress and women’s rights in a satirical article published on Valentine’s Day, 1968 called “A Tender Missive To Mr. Wilson.” The article is written in the form a valentine’s love letter to then Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who was a massive booster of technology—he believed a technological revolution that hinged on computers would produce social progress and equality in British society when nothing else had worked to destroy the British class system. The writer is not so impressed with the things technology has given women, like computer dating, but reminds Wilson that there are lots of other things women want, like equal pay, equal opportunity, full coeducation, wages for housewives, and so on. Computer dating can’t make Wilson her Valentine, she jokes, but giving women equal rights would win her heart.[17]

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 07TenderMissivetoMrWilson

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 1 When other women weighed in on computer dating in the pages of the Times they usually highlighted how computer dating was nothing new, at its most basic level. “Until computer dating was launched in Britain, most women considered computers unquestionably male—part of the vitally important but remote world of industry and commerce,” one columnist wrote.[18] Nonetheless, computerized dating was not magical or frightening because, she noted pragmatically, “one of the chief functions of computers is streamlining an existing service.” In this context, computer dating streamlined existing marriage bureau services or even informal social meetings, that were aimed at replicating the nuclear family. In this sense, there was nothing revolutionary, and little new or progressive about it. As early as 1960, in fact, there was public talk of the possibilities and benefits of marriage bureaus beginning to computerize.[19] While computerizing other types of information, like health care records led the same writer to warn that “the Orwellian possibilities—and dangers—of this are obvious enough,” the prospect of computer matchmaking seemed relatively safe and prosaic–even if it also seemed a bit sleazy.[20]

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 A veneer of sleaze—warranted or not—plagued many of the UK’s early computer dating companies. Dateline, which was founded in 1967, was purportedly the oldest computerized dating service in the UK. It ran on an IBM System/3. The System/3 was introduced in 1969 and it is unclear what machine Dateline used before that. They likely bought time on a mainframe at a computer bureau to run their programs before they were able to afford their own computer.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Dateline gained close to 500 clients each week, charging a fee of 5 pounds. With a database of 50,000 people, Dateline had easily pulled in at least a quarter of a million pounds by 1972, in just 5 short years of operation. Its founder, a 26-year-old bachelor, reported that the company’s revenues actually totaled £200,000 per year. Perhaps Dateline succeeded where other computer dating agencies failed because, as the London Times put it, “Each applicant fills in a 1 or a 0 for nearly 100 questions designed to elicit the kind of information that Big Brother probably only dreams of.” Dateline’s founder, described as “too busy to really reflect on the sociology of his operations, points out that even if his members have nothing else in common they have at least all joined Dateline.”[21] This kind of careless attitude about the implications of his matchmaking system seems familiar even today: OKCupid, for instance, saw no problem in randomly experimenting on users as recently as 2015 source.

Computer Dating Grows Up

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 The demographics of Dateline users were markedly different from the users of Operation Match. A sizable minority of Dateline applicants — more women than men — admitted to having been previously married. Nearly a third of the women using the service were divorcees. Only a tiny minority of users were people of color. Most lived in London and most sought matches in the difficult days of late fall and winter. Users were encouraged to “drop by any time” to “watch their friendly computer in action.” Complaint letters to the company were answered by Helen Harper, a public relations director who actually did not exist. sourceIn reality, the staff of over a dozen punchers, clerks, and computer operators wrote “Helen’s” replies.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Unlike Operation Match, with its veneer of Ivy League respectability and its youthful image, Dateline had had to fight for acceptance. While Operation Match was helped by its Harvard connections and an American enthusiasm to see technologies expand into social relations, it took several years before Dateline was allowed to publicize its services in the advertising sections of respectable magazines in Britain. Initially it was relegated to sleazier publications’ personals sections, which advertised dubiously legal services, or sexual items that most Britons would not admit to owning. Upon gaining this respectability, however, Dateline’s founder immediately diversified to recapture the grittier end of the market, starting a sibling company that catered to what he called a “trendier, down market image.” That service was slightly cheaper and also asked much more explicit questions about how sexually experienced users required their potential matches to be. The aura of being a pimp, rather than a matchmaker, which Dateline had sought to shake was nonetheless a good business model.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Dateline’s only real competition at the time was from Com-Pat, a computer dating service formed by the merger of two marriage bureaus, which claimed to have been in operation even longer. Com-Pat might have been unique in having been the earliest computer dating service run by a woman. Headed by a woman in her mid thirties who preferred to keep her marital status private, the service had only 2500 clients, catered to a slightly older crowd, and seemed to take its role as a matchmaking intermediary somewhat more seriously. Like Dateline, Com-Pat faced a respectability problem early on which hurt its ability to advertise. Com-Pat’s director noted the great debt she owed to another technology in this regard. The Pop Pirates, the illegal rock stations that operated off the coast of England on ships in the 1960s, gave Com Pat advertising support that made the service seem cool and cutting edge, rather than a sad last resort being advertised in the back of sleazy magazines.[22]

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 08DatelineandComPatAds1972

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 1 While thankful for the help of pirate radio, however, Com-Pat’s director nonetheless blamed other technologies for getting Britons to a point where they needed her service. She cited the increase in television viewing as the reason people were not socializing as much anymore. Unlike Dateline, Com-Pat focused on making matches for marriages, not dating, and this represented an important division between two types of dating services operating in the industry — the ones started by bachelor men, in thrall to their own potential success at getting computers to serve them women, tended to focus on dating and making a profit. Smaller agencies that came out of the marriage bureau tradition focused less on profits or dating, and more on marriage. Both were similar, however, in the sense that both kinds of computer matchmaking firms were attempting to get people paired up who would, most importantly, not upset each other’s view of the world or themselves. Just like the conservative founder of the current dating-for-marriage web service eHarmony has said “opposites attract until they don’t,” early computer matchmaking operated on a principle of shunning, and even fearing, difference.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 While the computer was not “clairvoyant,” Com-Pat’s director freely admitted, it could still “eliminate the embarrassment of introducing people with the wrong background and nationality and politics and religion.” Associations with pirate rock and roll radio aside, Com-Pat’s mandate was in no way anti-establishment. Matching up people of different backgrounds was a euphemism for people not merely with different interests in British society of the time but for people of different classes and especially races. Com-Pat’s director said, “that kind of thing makes bad marriages.” Perhaps that was why Com Pat’s system focused on allowing people to specify the things they would not tolerate in a potential match, rather than just answering questions about themselves and the things they were looking for. In an era when Britain’s demographics were changing rapidly, with more women joining the workforce, higher immigration, more tolerance for gay and lesbian citizens, and greater attempts at racial equality, the technological progressiveness of computerized matchmaking services not only hid socially regressive underpinnings but also actively encouraged them by making those prejudices part of the matching system.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Cartoons of the era often poked fun at this very aspect of computer matchmaking, showing how matching up like with like wasn’t necessarily a good idea.

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36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 1 At one point the Evening News came under fire for publishing a racist cartoon that showed an Asian man and a Black woman paired up by a “broken” computer dating service. Though many objected to its crude racism, in a sense the cartoon showed what most people who used a computer dating service were thinking: they hoped for a match with someone just like themselves when they sought the supposedly perfect logic of a computer. Computer matchmaking services just further institutionalized, by using a new form of technology, the social biases and hierarchies that had long determined how most people met and married—or didn’t meet and marry. Tellingly, the Press Council, which oversaw British newspapers and meted out censures for papers that published false or inappropriate material, found nothing racist or problematic about the cartoon, because, they insisted — somewhat amazingly — that there was no racist “intent” or intent to offend. In the same way, the racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism of computer matching systems is often given a pass on the assumption that there was no conscious “intent” to design the systems that way.[23]

But Did It Work?

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 By the late 1960s and early 1970s computer matchmaking had started to come under fire for not doing its job of matching like with like well enough. Match-ups of similar people were not simply for their own benefit, they were also important for purposes of social stability, respectability, and the successful replication of the white, middle-class, and nuclear family. In this context, British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC) got embroiled in a Parliamentary investigation for running a dating tourism program that matched up willing British girls with visiting American men by computer. BOAC was accused of functioning as a glorified pimp because, unlike other computer dating services, its aim was not to replicate the hierarchy of the nuclear family through making a match that would lead to marriage. In their system a successful match up was one in which both the visitor and the British woman he met had fun in each other’s company for a short period of time. Instead of strengthening conservative heteronormative social ties, it threatened to weaken them. BOAC tried to defend itself by arguing that their program was, in fact, for single young men and that the service was not “providing girls for businessmen.”[24] In other words, their program was about potential marriages and not adultery. Still, their advertising was too subversive for the context of the time: “BOAC Tours for the Footloose and Fancy-Free!” proclaimed one of their posters.

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39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 This was a bridge too far. Yet, the rest of BOAC’s advertising focused on selling flights by using women’s images to entice men to travel to other countries. The dating program was simply the next logical step in their advertising.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Women were positioned as commodities for other kinds of computerized systems as well: they abounded in early business computer advertisements because their labor was a cheap commodity, making the early office computing labor market primarily women.[25] BOAC’s marketing strategy—to sell flights by using the enticement of exciting dates with foreign women, highlights how computer dating strategies positioned both men and women as commodities, but often objectified and commodified women more.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 14BOACAssortedTravelPosters

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 This meshed with the view of many computer dating companies, which often saw women more as a means to an end — the end being profit — than as clients. One company, for instance, charged extra if a match resulted in a marriage proposal, so rather than matching women up by computer with eligible men the company would send its own employees on dates and they would make fake proposals.[26] There were even more damaging practices. One US service sent multiple women on dates with a young man who had a long history of mental illness, and whose favorite spot to take dates was a site where a brutal murder had occurred in Central Park. Another service was run by a man who impersonated a member of the clergy.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 There were also perennial accounts of sexual impropriety, like the man who walked into a woman’s apartment wearing nothing under his overcoat. These incidents undoubtedly masked less reported but more serious instances of assault — sexual and otherwise.[27] Throughout the complaints made by users two themes emerge. First, a significant number of computer dating agencies used unscrupulous tactics to make money, often without providing any real services. And second, most of the complaints came from women, who had either been let down or in some cases put in harm’s way.[28] In 1975, one computer dating company in the UK had come under scrutiny from the Government’s Fair Trading Office, which sought evidence from the public that any of the existing dating services actually did what they claimed to do.[29]

Not So Revolutionary

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 1 But the critiques and occasionally moral panics surrounding computer dating seem to have formed a minority of the reactions. For the most part, computer matchmaking encountered very little resistance and was quickly adopted by tens of thousands of people.[30] And, why wouldn’t it have been? Computer matchmaking did not propose anything new, different, or unfamiliar. As constructed in the Anglo-American world it did not have any revolutionary component that would have made users especially uneasy. As Nathan Ensmenger has pointed out, Operation Match, just like another matchmaking system that got its start at Harvard (Facebook) focused on a “target audience” of “Ivy League and associated schools,” making it little more than another way to ensure social hierarchies remained strong while offering a convenience to users.[31]

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Like Facebook, Operation Match was also started by young men whose idea of the technological future was grounded in using women’s bodies for entertainment and the benefit of their own businesses. Mark Zuckerberg’s first incarnation of Facebook, a site called “Facemash,” simply downloaded all Harvard women undergrads’ pictures from the university server and juxtaposed two at a time, telling visitors to the site to rate which one was more attractive before moving on to the next pair. Kate Losse, a former Facebook employee who joined the company as employee number 51 in 2005 and worked closely with Zuckerberg, has written about how Facebook’s’ driving design principle is one that enables voyeurism, essentially technologically replicating the privilege of the male gaze for its users, and embedding within that social network the problems that come along with that privilege and worldview.[32]

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Why Does Computer Dating Matter to the History of Computing and Sexuality?

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 There are two major reasons why the history of computer dating is more than just an amusing footnote in the history of computing. The first is that historians of computing have yet to fully engage with the fact that narratives highlighting the conservative properties of technological change have as much, or more, explanatory value as narratives focused on progress or technological “revolution.” Time and time again we see the ways in which computer technology institutionalized and revived more conservative social and economic models than the reverse. We continue to observe that in computing today, even to the point of seeing many new technological developments that are actively regressive. There is an entire industry of apps and software services designed to skirt labor laws and antitrust/price-fixing laws. These can result in further abuse of workers who are already disproportionately clustered near the bottom of socioeconomic hierarchies due to their race, class, and gender.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 This history also seems especially important today in the context of Silicon Valley’s “disruption” claims. Mostly affluent, male, and white CEOs and venture capitalists purport to offer technologies of revolution while instead promoting platforms whose affordances are largely conservative or regressive in nature, ones that promote abuse of women and minorities online (Twitter), abuse of labor (Uber, Mechanical Turk, Amazon Prime), and commodification of personal lives for advertising purposes (Facebook, Google). The list goes on. Therefore it is increasingly important for computing history to tell the stories that point out the “old” in addition to the “new.” Since the less progressive aspects of computer history have as much or more resonance with our current technology landscape, they are therefore are explanatorily useful. Historically, computer technology has not been all that revolutionary socially or economically: it does not tend to upset gender or racial hierarchies any more than it tends to preserve and strengthen them. Nor does it upend the way capitalist markets work or how those markets create anti-meritocratic hierarchies that function both nationally and globally to oppress people with less political and economic power. Computing is often a force for regressive change and a tool used by those traditionally in power. It gives these groups new and powerful ways of implementing their ideals and institutionalizing their belief systems and values.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 3 Although this history shows computer matchmaking to not be a progressive technology but a reactionary one in the Anglo-American context, it does not support the current discourse of moral panic about people interacting “too much” online or through telecommunications technologies like texting, rather than in “real life.” This case study is a critique that specifically shows how centralized systems that attempted to improve dating and matchmaking were rooted in the specific goals and viewpoints of a privileged few. Second, it is important to point out how the history of computer dating, when unpacked and critiqued as a conservative technology, offers insights into the history of sexuality’s intersection with high technology, the replication of heteronormative institutions and ideals, and the ability of technologies to create social categories and implied social “needs.” It shows how technologies — far from somehow being neutral or rational—are often silently engaged in highly sexualized and emotionally charged cultural projects to normalize particular behaviors and condemn or submerge others. Currently, more and more dating applications are unpacking this cultural baggage, leading to software that, for instance, tries to privilege queer users. At least one matchmaking app today is specifically designed to support and strengthen radical queer identities and relationships while taking into account their intersectionality with race, gender, and class.[33] Developments like these show that the historical lineage of computer matchmaking is more contentious than it may appear. Nonetheless, most contemporary computer matchmaking systems cleave to extremely conservative and traditional categories of gender, sexuality, and relationship type. In unpacking some of their lineage this paper hopes to add to the modest, but growing, number of queer histories of computing, as well as to conversations about diversity within the history of technology today.[34]

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 16ThurstCofounders


51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 1. Cover by Charles Addams, New Yorker, 11 February 1961.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 2. IBM claims this cartoon machine was based on IBM SSEC in showroom on Madison Ave from 1948-1952: “The SSEC was visible to pedestrians on the sidewalk, and inspired a generation of cartoonists to portray the computer as a series of wall-sized panels covered with lights, meters, dials, switches, and spinning rolls of tape.” Excerpt from IBM history available at: http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=851

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 3. Our Own Correspondent. “How France Makes Use Of Computers.” Times (London, England) Oct. 27,1960, 10.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 4. See archives of LEO Computer Company at National Archive for the History of Computing, Manchester, UK, and Georgina Ferry’s LEO: The First Business Computer.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 5. Steve Yoder, “How Online Dating Became a $2 Billion Industry,” The Fiscal Times, February 14, 2014, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/02/14/Valentines-Day-2014-How-Online-Dating-Became-2-Billion-Industry
and Pew Research Center, “Five Facts About Online Dating,” April 20, 2015, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/20/5-facts-about-online-dating/

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 6. See Donna J. Drucker, “Keying Desire: Alfred Kinsey’s Use of Punched-Card Machines for Sex Research,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 22, no1 (2013) : 105-125, and The Classification of Sex: Alfred Kinsey and the Organization of Knowledge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Gaboury’s work is available at http://rhizome.org/editorial/2013/feb/19/queer-computing-1/ and see Marie Hicks, “De-brogramming the History of Computing,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Jan-Mar? 2013, at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6502624

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 7. T. Jay Mathews, “Operation Match,” 3 November 1965, Harvard Crimson.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 8. T. Jay Mathews, “Operation Match,” 3 November 1965, Harvard Crimson.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 9. For a history of the gender dynamics at Harvard in the 1960s, and its process of going fully coeducational, or “coresidential” in the seventies, see Marie Hicks, “Integrating Women at Oxford and Harvard Universities, 1964-1977,” in Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History, ed. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004).

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 10. Quote from T. Jay Mathews, “Operation Match. The Proceedings of The History of Nordic Computing 3 by John Impagliazzzo, Per Lundin, and Benkt Vengler discuss examples of this in Finland in the 1960s, but interestingly credit the germ for these programs to American technology—namely IBM computers—installed at the University of Turku. Page 120-121.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 11. Avco was a New England based computer services company with a computer center in the suburbs of Boston.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 12. T. Jay Mathews, “Operation Match,” 3 November 1965, Harvard Crimson. Issues number

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 13. Censuses and Surveys, 1961, Summary Tables, 4-5; Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, Census 1971, Great Britain, Age, Marital Condition and General Tables (London: HMSO, 1974), 26-27; and, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, Census 1981, National Report Great Britain, Part 1 (London: HMSO, 1983), 15.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 14. Cartoon from Mavis Tate, M.P., Equal Pay Campaign Pamphlet, “Equal Work Deserves Equal Pay,” 1954, 8, 6/EPC Box 262, EPCC Pamphlets/Leaflets Folder, The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University).

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 15. Whitley Council Committee, The Marriage Bar, 13. More information needed here

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 16. Sue Puddefoot, “A Tender Missive To Mr Wilson,” The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Feb.14, 1968; pg. 9. Date needed not day page incorrect

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 17. “A Tender Missive To Mr Wilson,” The Times (London, England), Wednesday, Feb. 14, 1968; pg. 9. Pg format incorrect

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 18. Valerie Knox, “Merry-go-Round,” The Times (London, England), Monday, Apr. 24, 1967; pg. 7. Pg format

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 19. Our Own Correspondent. “How France Makes Use Of Computers.” Times [London, England] 27 Oct. 1960: 10.

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 20. Our Own Correspondent. “How France Makes Use Of Computers.” Times [London, England] 27 Oct. 1960: 10.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 21. John Clare, “Marriage: Cupid from the computer,” Times (London, England), 25 Mar. 1972: 16.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 22. John Clare, “Marriage: Cupid from the computer,” Times (London, England), 25 Mar. 1972: 16.

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 23. “Press Council rejects cartoon complaint.” Times (London, England), 18 Apr. 1978: 4.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 24. “Nothing immoral in tourist dating, BOAC says.” The Times (London, England), Saturday, Sep 13, 1969; 3.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 25. For background, see Marie Hicks, “Only the Clothes Changed: Women Operators in British Computing and Advertising, 1950-1970,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 32, no. 2 (October-December 2010 unneeded).

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 26. “Report on computer date firm.” Times (London, England), 29 Aug. 1970: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Oct. 2015. ?

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 27. Our Own Correspondent. “Dating agencies attacked for exploiting the lonely.” Times (London, England). 17 Nov. 1970: 9.

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 28. “Report on computer date firm.” Times (London, England), 29 Aug. 1970: 2. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 3 Oct. 2015.?

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 29. Staff Reporter, “Fair-trading office to study marriage bureau?,” Times (London, England), Dec. 27, 1975: 2.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 30. “Danger when computer plays Cupid,” Times (London, England), Aug. 23, 1973. This article describes the kind of unhelpful, knee-jerk “moral panic” critique that has repeatedly been leveled against new technologies.

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 31. Nathan Ensmenger, “Computer Dating in the 1960s,” Blog title needed (blog), Mar 5. 2014, http://thecomputerboys.com/?p=654

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 32. See Kate Losse, “The Male Gazed: Surveillance, Power, and Gender, “Model View Culture, January 13, 2014, https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-male-gazed, and The Boy Kings (her memoir of her time working at Facebook).

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 33. See, for example Thurst, “a queer dating app for the queer community’s specific needs and desires.” Among other queer-friendly features, Thurst has dozens of options for gender identity. Website: www.thurst.in

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 1 34. For more on queering the history of technology, see Katie Hindmarch-Watson’s work on prostitution rings in which aristocratic British men had sex with telegraph boys. Hindmarch-Watson shows how socio-sexual networks of power function within technological ones. Katie Hindmarch-Watson, “Male Prostitution and the London GPO: Telegraph Boys ‘Immorality’ from Nationalization to the Cleveland Street Scandal.” The Journal of British Studies 51 no. missing, (2012): 594-617.

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Source: http://adareview.fembotcollective.org/ada-issue-10-open-issue/computer-love-sex-social-order-and-technological-matchmaking-at-the-dawn-of-the-electronic-age-1950-1979/