In addition, employing women on overnight shift work with men was perceived as unseemly.
Heterosexual men’s career requirements, as well as their fantasies and fears about women’s sexuality, often shaped how women were viewed in machine rooms and whether or not they were allowed to work in certain jobs at all.
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.
For Valentine’s Day, 1961, the cartoonist Charles Addams—of Addams Family fame—drew a futuristic cover for the New Yorker.
The idea that women and men might meet casually, for sex, instead of within a social context that positioned marriage as the objective, hindered computer dating.
In order to limit the “sleaze factor” associated with match-ups made by machines, early computer dating services focused on transferring the social mores that structured non-computerized dating and mating onto these new machine-aided systems.
By the 1960s, popular discourse on technological change highlighted concerns that computers would eventually take over most intellectual tasks, and perhaps even more than that. The flip side of these fears about what computers might do was the fact that early computers still required an enormous amount of labor in order to successfully and completely run programs.
Early mainframes were prone to breakdowns and human labor was a key part of the fiction of effortless automation represented in the popular press.
A reminiscence from a worker at LEO, an early British computing company—and the company which created the first dedicated electronic business computer—described how LEO bucked the norm of hiring female operators and hired men instead.
Today, the idea of being matched with a potential romantic partner via computer has been normalized to the point of seeming quotidian.
In the early days of computer dating, however, machine-mediated romantic interactions were often considered untoward or slightly shocking, for reasons similar to the ones that kept women from working alongside men at night.
The tape reels were so high, he related, that if a woman operator reached up to change them it might “might snap her bra straps!
” But the reason LEO’s computer operator jobs were earmarked for men had everything to do with the particular career opportunities they afforded, rather than having anything to do with women’s needs.
Written and designed by men, these computer dating programs promised to take the messiness of human interaction out of the process of meeting women.