Before Tinder, there was Dateline | 1843 – The Economist 1843
In 1966 John Patterson went to visit some friends in America and came home with a business idea. Patterson was a bon-vivant entrepreneur who loved the company of women and this idea – a dating service – held personal appeal to him. He had observed the workings of Operation Match, a computer dating service started at Harvard in 1965 by two undergraduates, that paired students together for dates for $3 a pop. Students filled in questionnaires which were processed by an IBM 1401 – a hulking, five-tonne machine described as “the great God computer” – before receiving the names and telephone numbers of their matches in the post.
Patterson, whose previous businesses included selling candles, used cars and eggs dusted with feathers in order to make them look fresh, saw potential for a similar system to find success among Britain’s swelling population of singletons, which was rising because of newly relaxed divorce laws and the introduction of the Pill. That same year, Dateline, which would become Britain’s biggest and best-known computer dating service and the pre-internet answer to Tinder, was born. “He managed to negotiate a deal with IBM to rent this computer,” his widow Sandy Nye recalled when we met to discuss Dateline in Rochester, Kent, in south-east England. “It was enormous, it was absolutely gigantic. Three big towers, and tapes whizzing round, and the main computer would have taken up most of this wall.”
Dateline worked as follows: