Computer Love: Replicating Social Order Through Early Computer Dating Systems
Although online dating has only recently become culturally acceptable and widespread, using computers to make romantic matches has a long history. But rather than revolutionizing how people met and married, this article shows how early computerized dating systems re-inscribed conservative social norms about gender, race, class, and sexuality. It explores the mid-twentieth century origins of computer dating and matchmaking in order to argue for the importance of using sexuality as a lens of analysis in the history of computing. Doing so makes more visible the heteronormativity that silently structures much of our technological infrastructure and helps bring other questions about gender, race, and class into the foreground. The article connects this history to other examples in the history of technology that show how technological systems touted as “revolutionary” often help entrenched structural biases proliferate rather than breaking them down. 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. It shows that, contrary to what was previously believed, the first computerized dating system in either the US or the UK was run by a woman.