The idea that women and men might meet casually, for sex, instead of within a social context that positioned marriage as the objective, hindered computer dating.
In order to limit the “sleaze factor” associated with match-ups made by machines, early computer dating services focused on transferring the social mores that structured non-computerized dating and mating onto these new machine-aided systems.
Today, the idea of being matched with a potential romantic partner via computer has been normalized to the point of seeming quotidian.
In the early days of computer dating, however, machine-mediated romantic interactions were often considered untoward or slightly shocking, for reasons similar to the ones that kept women from working alongside men at night.
It showed a massive, wall-sized computer, with hundreds of blinking lights, ejecting a tiny paper card with a red heart on it for its operator, who was dwarfed by the computer’s hulking form.
The drawing of the computer was supposedly based on the huge SSEC (Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator) mainframe that IBM had shown off in its Madison Avenue showroom in New York City from 1948-1952.
Written and designed by men, these computer dating programs promised to take the messiness of human interaction out of the process of meeting women.
At first glance, the approach seemed novel and potentially progressive, part and parcel of the context of growing sexual permissiveness in American cities during the 1960s and the “swinging sixties” in London.
The article also upsets the notion that computer dating systems can simply be understood as a version of the “boys and their toys” narrative that has dominated much of computing history.In addition, employing women on overnight shift work with men was perceived as unseemly.