In the fall of 1964, on a visit to the World’s Fair, in Queens, Lewis Altfest, a twenty-five-year-old accountant, came upon an open-air display called the Parker Pen Pavilion, where a giant computer clicked and whirred at the job of selecting foreign pen pals for curious pavilion visitors. Within a year, more than five thousand subscribers had signed on. It would invite dozens of matched couples to singles parties, knowing that people might be more comfortable in a group setting. They wound up in the pages of the New York subscriber.
You filled out a questionnaire, fed it into the machine, and almost instantly received a card with the name and address of a like-minded participant in some far-flung locale—your ideal match. He called up his friend Robert Ross, a programmer at I. M., and they began considering ways to adapt this approach to find matches closer to home. “This loser happens to be a talented fashion illustrator for one of New York’s largest advertising agencies.
And when it came to meeting your soulmate, many of us had little time or inclination to frequent the disco pick-up scene.
(“Love to Love You Baby” was the anthem of the times.) There are only so many people you can meet through your friends and family.
They’d heard about some students at Harvard who’d come up with a program called Operation Match, which used a computer to find dates for people. She makes Quiche Lorraine, plays chess, and like me she loves to ski. ”One day, a woman named Patricia Lahrmer, from 1010 WINS, a local radio station, came to to do an interview.
A year later, Altfest and Ross had a prototype, which they called Project , an acronym for Technical Automated Compatibility Testing—New York City’s first computer-dating service. She was the station’s first female reporter, and she had chosen, as her début feature, a three-part story on how New York couples meet.
I met my wife of more than 31 years via a computer-based Jewish dating service in Seattle.For decades I’ve told friends and some family that I met my wife through a friend.Not just any friend, mind you, but a “good friend.” No one questioned me, chalking up my good fortune to clean living and a decent amount of annual charitable giving.It is actually one of those topics that illustrates the shortcomings of our current internet search tools.Whilst researching it I seemed to find an awful lot more about getting a mail order bride sent to me from Russia than I found out about the origins of computer assisted love.