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I n 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.

Britain's first dating agency, 20, lonely hearts later

Three big towers, and tapes whizzing round, and the main computer would have taken up most of this wall. Dateline worked as follows: singles would write to Dateline requesting a two- questionnaire, which the company claimed was written by psychological experts.

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Dotted with machine-readable hole punches, the returned questionnaires would be fed into the computer to be read by an algorithm the workings of which remain obscure. By Dateline had 44, customers, which made it the biggest dedicated dating business in the country. Patterson had been right to see the potential in pairing computation with matchmaking.

Location-based software is also a crucial part of the 1, dating sites that operate in Britain dateline dating site, over which all kinds of niche tastes are overlaid: there are apps and websites for spectacle-wearers, Brexit voters and those who like their men with beards. Gay dating sites and apps have flourished too, ever since Grindr was founded in By removing class as a determinant of romantic suitability, Dateline furthered a radical new paradigm in the love quest.

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Psychology, not social background, now determined romantic compatibility — and an impartial computer served as the matchmaker. Compatibility is now central to our ideas about love, but interest in it emerged from the use of personality testing by psychologists. Researchers studied compatibility with increasing zeal in the s.

Computer dating in the s: dateline and the making of the modern british single

Many were matched with people who lived too far away, a problem that would finally be solved with the rise of the GPS. Some observers found the rise of computer dating depressing on a more fundamental level. The idea that algorithmic power must be underpinned by psychological expertise lay behind some of the biggest dating sites of the s.

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The one that has taken this approach furthest is eHarmony. Nonetheless, it was the boldest and most sustained attempt to bring computers to the quest for love in the pre-internet era. With the rise of the internet, online dating grew in popularity, but remained fairly marginal compared with the traditional ways of meeting people.

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Yet a stigma still surrounded it. Even as Match.

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That all changed with Tinder. A third of couples now meet online and the algorithm seems to be winning. It may have taken 50 years but John Patterson has been vindicated.

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He would have loved it. Reuse this content The Trust Project. The Economist Today.

John richard patterson

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