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First computerized dating service EVER!!: Operation Match

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In 1965, Jack Tarr and Vaughan Morrill, students at Harvard University, began the first computer dating service called Operation Match.

Interestingly enough, before building Operation Match, they had a conversation in which they discussed that computers would not help the fact that they dreaded mixers and blind dates.

These two partners knew that in Europe companies were arranging marriages through the use of technology and making money off of this. They also knew that these technologies were often used at some mixers (from which Tarr was tired of coming home alone from) for similar, more college environment purposes.

They decided to create a questionnaire that asked students to answer questions about themselves and about their perfect partner.

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Students would then fill these out and return them with a $3 subscription fee.

By late February of 1965 they started advertising their service.

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In March of 1965, the founders realized they weren’t receiving enough money to keep up with the work and actually profit from it.
Morrill was contacted by the CBS show “To Tell The Truth” so that he could appear on it, he quickly responded to the offer as it would boost their business and possibly give it the popularity they needed in order for it to be a success.
Soon after that Vicki Albright, a UCLA 19 year old, was selected as the Law School’s Woman of the Year, who had appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine a couple of weeks earlier. Tarr and Morrill decided to sponsor her visit to Harvard and decided to match her with Harvard men using their dating service. She was matches with Kevin Lewis and pictures of them appeared on the Associated Press and other media like the L.A. Times and the Houston Post.
With so much esposare the amount of cuestionares they received doubled and they set up offices in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Bloomington Boston, and Chicago. However, this rapad expansion hurth their business with only 70 responses in Bloomington and a lack of responses in Boston.

Subscribers would punch their answers to IBM cards, and then a 1790 Avco computer would grab all questionnaires and match similar answers. Then, in a couple of days, subscribers would receive computer print outs with the names of six people and their phone numbers, addresses and graduating years.

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Just six months after its launch, they had already made $270K. When they sold Operation Match in 1968 they already had over one million users.

Media credits:
Jezebel.com
http://ljkrakauer.com/
io9.com

 

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Comments (3)

  1. For the first online dating site ever, they sure did make a lot of money in six months, impressive. I am honestly not surprised that the first online dating site charged $3. Now a lot of online dating sites are free of charge while others so charge. I’m also not surprised that there were Harvard students that made the first online dating site.

  2. I love this, where did you get the information? Links to resources? Any images? This is a great bit to push the history of online dating well back before the web.

  3. […] online dating. This is a fascinating topic because it has a historical aspect (computer matchmaking goes back to the 60s), an economic aspect (apparently it’s a bigger business online than porn) as well as a […]

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