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the fall of 1964, on a visit to the World’s Fair, in Queens, Lewis Altfest, a twenty-five-year-old accountant, came upon an open-air display called the Parker Pen Pavilion, where a giant computer clicked and whirred at the job of selecting foreign pen pals for curious pavilion visitors. Within a year, more than five thousand subscribers had signed on. It would invite dozens of matched couples to singles parties, knowing that people might be more comfortable in a group setting. They wound up in the pages of the New York subscriber.
You filled out a questionnaire, fed it into the machine, and almost instantly received a card with the name and address of a like-minded participant in some far-flung locale—your ideal match. He called up his friend Robert Ross, a programmer at I. M., and they began considering ways to adapt this approach to find matches closer to home. “This loser happens to be a talented fashion illustrator for one of New York’s largest advertising agencies.
Online dating sites, whatever their more mercenary motives, draw on the premise that there has got to be a better way.
Society—family, tribe, caste, church, village, probate court—established and enforced its connubial protocols for the presumed good of everyone, except maybe for the couples themselves.
In a fractured and bewildered landscape of fern bars, ladies’ nights, Plato’s Retreat, “The Bachelor,” sexting, and the concept of the “cougar,” the Internet promised reconnection, profusion, and processing power.
The obvious advantage of online dating is that it provides a wider pool of possibility and choice.
You can get to thinking that the single ones are single for a reason.
If your herd is larger, your top choice is likely to be better, in theory, anyway. When there is something better out there, you can’t help trying to find it.