By the 1960s, popular discourse on technological change highlighted concerns that computers would eventually take over most intellectual tasks, and perhaps even more than that. The flip side of these fears about what computers might do was the fact that early computers still required an enormous amount of labor in order to successfully and completely run programs.
A reminiscence from a worker at LEO, an early British computing company—and the company which created the first dedicated electronic business computer—described how LEO bucked the norm of hiring female operators and hired men instead.Written and designed by men, these computer dating programs promised to take the messiness of human interaction out of the process of meeting women.At first glance, the approach seemed novel and potentially progressive, part and parcel of the context of growing sexual permissiveness in American cities during the 1960s and the “swinging sixties” in London.The operators who made this possible in the Anglo-American world tended to be women.The machines, on the other hand, were coded as masculine and aligned with the male innovators who designed them.
But the reason that it was making an appearance on the cover of the New Yorker almost a decade later had less to do with the specific computer in question, and more to do with what computer technology was coming to represent by the early 1960s: a potential challenge to the capacities and talents of human beings. By the early 1960s, mainframes had crept into the popular consciousness through news reports and advertising.