Past Times

Raleigh teens were among the first to try computer dating

These high school girls in 1952 wouldn’t have been stuck at home playing Parcheesi if they’d had the “Computer Cupid.”
These high school girls in 1952 wouldn’t have been stuck at home playing Parcheesi if they’d had the “Computer Cupid.” Albert Barden Collection, N.C. State Archives

Teenagers today would be lost without their computers. Fifty years ago, they were just beginning to realize the ways computers could change their lives. N&O writer Jack Childs provided a glimpse into the future and the new world of computer dating.

The “mod” generation has dusted off an old refrain and given it some new lyrics.

It used to go: “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.” These days, it’s: “Computer, computer, find me a suitor.” The old boy-meets-girl routine is no longer left to chance. The flesh-and-blood matchmaker has been replaced by a Computer Cupid.

Among the latest to embrace the “Computer Dating Service” are Raleigh’s senior high school guys and girls.

They haven’t yet put the mechanical matchmaker to a test, but judging by early enthusiasm to the idea, it looks as if it will get plenty of action.

The first computer dating service was born in the computer-conscious brains of some students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pretty soon the idea of finding a dream girl (or boy) through a scientific process had swept across college campuses from coast to coast.

This week, the Raleigh Youth Council, a citywide organization for teens, took the wraps off the first “Computer Dating Service” for high schoolers here when “computer dating questionnaires” were distributed at Broughton, Enloe, Ligon and Cardinal Gibbons high schools.

Designed to bring together boys and girls who would be compatible, the questionnaires have been going like hotcakes.

Ed Turner, a Broughton senior who is chairman of the project for the council, took 300 forms to his school on the first distribution day.

“They were gone in no time,” he related. “Students stopped me in the halls, everywhere, wanting copies.

“I gave one girl 10 copies. A few minutes later she was back for 20 more. Finally she came back again, and I gave her 20 more.”

Turner said the questionnaire here is a “simplified” version of the original developed at MIT. For the service, the boys must pay $1 per questionnaire; the girls get them free.

As Turner explained in an “instruction sheet,” “Each boy will receive in the mail the names and telephone numbers of four girls; he is guaranteed these four names. Girls, however, are guaranteed nothing; they may be matched up with anywhere from no boys to hundreds.”

“In a month or so,” Turner said, the first filled-out questionnaires will be fed into the mechanical brains at the Call-A-Computer Corp. of Raleigh.

It will be the “Computer Cupid’s” task to match up the boy and girl according to likes and dislikes, physical characters, personal habits and other data gleaned through their answers to the questions.

In fact, the service even takes a precaution not to send out a whiz kid on a date with a dunce. One of the 14 multiple-choice questions asks point-blank the student’s average in school – running the gamut from “A” to “below D.” The N&O May 7, 1967

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Teresa Leonard: 919-829-4866, @lizardlodge

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