March 22, 2010

USA: Computer dating, 60’s style

. MARCO ISLAND, Florida / / Columnists / March 22, 2010 The Shur Thing: Computer dating, 60’s style Iris Shur, Community contributor My husband and I met through computer dating about 42 years ago. “Hey, wait a minute,” you are saying, “there was no computer dating 42 years ago.” Oh yes, there was. But it wasn’t Internet dating since there was no Internet. Those were the days when a computer took up an entire room, remember? When I moved to the Boston area in 1967 I didn’t know anyone. Since I was not one to go to a bar to meet people, I decided to try computer dating. It was a new phenomenon that began in Boston in the 60’s and eventually spread all over the country. The very first computer dating service, to the best of my knowledge, was called DataMate. I joined for a $10 fee. My husband had moved to Boston at the same time working in an advertising agency. He also did not know anyone. Since his work hours were long he had little time to go out and meet people (meaning women) so he too signed up for DataMate, also paying $10. DataMate worked like this. You filled out a very extensive questionnaire. They keypunched your specifications like education, height, religion and other preferences and ran a match program on the computer. Once a month, I received a printout of “matches” and waited for the men to call. In those days women never called a man for a date. Usually a telephone call was enough to disqualify a prospective match, and the saga of really bad dates is fodder for another story. But when my future husband called me, we stayed on the phone for hours and laughed a lot. When he came to the door on our first date, I knew I had met my “match.” He was tall, dark and handsome, smart and really witty. After our first date I ran around my apartment building to tell my friends that I had met the man of my dreams and that I hoped to marry him. It took me two years to convince my husband that I was right. Although my husband joined DataMate to meet women, he joined primarily because he wanted to see how computer dating worked. He had plans to start his own improved version of a computer dating service. His field was marketing research which involves, in some part, questionnaire design. He felt that a computer dating company was based on a questionnaire and he also thought he could do a better job of writing one than someone not trained in that field. The fact that his “research” brought us together was an unexpected bonus. The name of his computer dating service was Phase 2, so named because it was a step up from the existing DataMate program. It was really quite clever since people often are not truthful when filling out their forms. With his program, after you went on a date you would fill out the feedback on each person and send it in. If you said your date was 5 feet tall and he had put down 5 feet 6 inches, well, the data was changed to be truthful. A woman who said she weighed 105 and in reality was well over 200 pounds was quickly found out. Phase 2 eventually had outlets all over the country, becoming the largest computer dating service at that time. I suspect that there are many people reading this who were Phase 2 members and lots who met their husbands through our service. I always say that the $10 I spent for my fantastic match was well worth it and my husband says so too, most of the time. I always felt that the owner of our competitor, DataMate, must have gotten a big kick out of the fact that we met through his service. [rc] Iris Shur E-Mail: © 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online