Love on magnetic tape

CSIRO Problem In Computer Network

The Canberra Times, 4 March, 1970

By Barbara Hynes

WHEN will the songsters stop exploiting all those strangers who meet across vrowded rooms on enchanted evenings?

Technological advances being what they are, the mind yawns at the prosaic stuff our love songs are made of.

For instance, who will be the first lyricist to immortalise the ecstasy of that precise moment when two components of a computer click and a magnetic tape declares Eleanor Rigby is Desmond Jones' perfect match, body and soul?

Computer dating, though it may not have hit the charts, is already a fact in Australia.

And 23-year-old Alex Risticz, who started the country's first computer introduction service, 'Program Match', two-and-a half years ago in Adelaide, has nearly two dozen marriages on the records and thousands of happy subscribers to prove it.

Risticz, a discreetly mannered but astute young man representative of the cleaner cut types on campus these days, is taking a PhD in computer scicnce at Adelaide University, and this, together with some earlier reading on computer dating operations in America, fairly popped the idea of 'Program Match' into his mind.

Right from the top, his organisation is a .loving kind of establishment. His business partner, 25-year old Rowena Frickcr, is also his romantic partner although neither can thank their Control Data Corporation 6400 computer system for it.

"I haven't tried it myself because I don't think Rowena would like it", Alex joked on a brief visit to Canberra this week.

"I heard that a chap who was to be married and who was running a computer dating service in America did,' and he wound up marrying his computer date instead".

Moving on to technicalities, he explained that couples are matched on the CDC computer in Adelaide, which 'Program Match' rents on a time basis each month.

At $400 an hour it would seem an expensive business, but when computer cards have been punched and the personal details that a thousand or so clients pin their romantic hopes on have been fed on to tapes,

it takes the computer only a split second to reel off each compatible, pair.

"We've matched several thousand: people so far", Alex Risticz noted with satisfaction'. "After they've joined the service (it costs $5' for men' arid $3 for women) they return a questionaire to us which has been designed so that from it we can punch up computer cards.

"From ■ this information the computer can analyse each person's psychological make-up, their attitudes, the sports they play, their interests, drives, neuroticisms, plus basic factors like religion, education, height, weight, appearance and so on".

With advertisements appearing for his service in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne as well as Adelaide, he deals with an estimated 100 clients a week.

"We're not really a marriage bureau but predominantly a dating organisation.

"Our members are mainly around 25 to 30, but we get quite a few under 20 and also over 60. We've got a medico,

several company directors, a few scientists, a lot of school teachers, a few labourers — really a whole range", he said.

"Within one to four week's, each member is given two or three dates.

"The initial contact is done through a letter which we address for them and post on — this is to protect women against cranks — and once members have corresponded they can proceed to give each other their addresses".

For the sake of convenience, couples are matched within their own cities, unless they specify that they can cope with a friendship conducted interstate.

But a person living in Adelaide, where 'Program atch' is most firmly established, might find his "girl in a million" has been selected from a possible 1,000 local names — a broad choice in any one's language.

"Most young people want someone they can simply have a good time ith", said Alex. "But the one thing that seems to stand out most is that both sexes want someone to really care for them".