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A Bit of History

A Bit of History


by Zima

The Beatles

These were your Top Matches in the 60s.

Here at SkaDate we often report about the success the world of Online Dating enjoyed throughout the last decade. Growing number of people accepted the phenomenon as mainstream, while companies dealing with virtual matchmaking generated the ever-increasing revenues. This seems to be the history of the Industry for now – cold but quickly changing numbers, and colorful profitability charts.

It wasn’t always like that. There was an era that we remember for a much slower pace, black and white photos, and history painted with cute nostalgic brushes. Actually, that’s when computer dating takes its start.

The common misconception is that the idea of finding dates with the help of digital technologies appeared on the scene in the 90s’, along with bulky cell phones, PlayStations, and Power Rangers. With all these wonderful things around it’s a miracle, really, that people even had time to do something online, let alone date. Also, it was kinda hard to do back then, since the World Wide Web as it is was launched only in 1991. Nevertheless, the Internet quickly gained momentum and by 2000 we were back to carefully calculating net profits.

The truth is that the first blind date assisted by a computer happened as far back as 1966. That’s right, people paid money to be matched by a machine while sporting mop-top haircuts and listening to records by Elvis and The Beatles.

This is how it worked in the 60s, courtesy of ‘Operation Match’ by a couple of Harvard  undergraduates – anyone could pay 3 bucks for a list of potential dates (phone numbers included), which was generated by an IBM computer, based on previously filled out extensive questionnaire. As you can see, the basic premise behind the service hasn’t really changed in the last half a century.

To further prove this point, here is one of the questions asked. (Note the similarity with options given by the currently popular matchmaking services) –

Your roommate gets you a blind date for the big dance. Good-looking your roommate says. When you meet your date, you are sure it’s your roommate who is blind – your date is friendly, but embarrassingly unattractive. You:
(1) Suggest going to a movie instead
(2) Monopolize your roommate’s date leaving your roommate with only one noble alternative.
(3) Dance with your date, smiling weakly, but end the evening as early as possible.
(4) Act very friendly the whole time and run the risk of getting trapped into a second date.

See, that’s how its done with class. Just monopolize your roommate’s date, what can be easier?

The concept of a machine picking your best possible partner seemed revolutionary at the time and it was. Perhaps, this idea did come around too soon, which explains why the service failed to turn a profit even after processing more than a million of matches.

But the system was not forgotten and slowly evolved into all-powerful algorithms now widely used by both, online dating giants and SkaDate-powered startups. It is peculiar, though, that we had to wait a few decades for the computer-assisted matchmaking to become cool again. Once again, 80s and 90s really seemed to set us back in terms of perceiving… well, everything.

So what about the future? Luckily it looks as bright as ever. The Industry has come a long way from punch-cards and mail-bride orders. Thousands of marriages based on online relationships, and millions of active users later, we are witnessing the true evolution of the idea. Let’s hope the future generations of dating moguls will look back at our time and remember it just as fondly, as we remember the times of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll… and computer dating.

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