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The Boston Globe

Magazine

The Weddings Issue

Love in the technology era

Finding a date by computer is commonplace today. Not so in 1965, when two student-run companies at Harvard rushed to usher in a new era of mating.

A general interest publication and a runner-up to Life, Look magazine was trying to stay on top of the computer revolution when, in the fall of 1965, it spotted a good story coming out of Boston. Two rival companies at Harvard, both student-run, were making money hand over fist by using computers to help students find dates. Look’s editors dispatched Gene Shalit, then a 29-year-old culture reporter, to investigate.

The concept of computer dating had taken root at Harvard earlier that year, when a junior math major named Jeff Tarr decided he was fed up with coming home alone from mixers with Radcliffe, the women’s college across the way. Despite Tarr’s towering stature in the math department, he was, at 5 feet 7 inches, less than a heartthrob. Tarr’s eureka moment, like that of so many innovators before and after him, reflected the desperation of a guy who couldn’t get a date. That he could also make a fortune by expanding the mating pool from Wheaton to Wellesley, from Pembroke to Mount Holyoke, was an afterthought.

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