1984 — An article in which I was mentioned, at the beginning of computers being recognized by the general public. What dd I learn from this experience?

  • Reporters figure out the stories they want to do, or they’ve been assigned, and work to find interviewees and quotes that buttress that point of view.
  • The word “allows” means “the interviewee doesn’t strenuously deny the quote that I’ve made up”, not “this is what they said.”
  • When you read an article about a technical niche in which you’re competent you notice all kinds of errors, large and small. Remember this for when you’re reading about a niche with which you’re unfamiliar — that’ll have errors of the same scope that you won’t be able to pick up easily.
  • Reporters are generalists, and know almost nothing about the technical merits of that which they’re reporting on.
  • One’s parents cannot get every copy of the printed issue to collect for the future, no matter how hard they try :-)

Knowing a Computer Can Be Fastest Way To a Woman’s Heart: The New Big Men on Campus Find Technical Wizardry Is Quicker Than Liquor

The Wall Street Journal

Friday, May 8, 1984

by Bob Davis, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

BOSTON – As a gangly high-school student, Michael Sattler had just five dates in four years. Then he discovered computers. Now girls have discovered him.

It is exam time at Boston University, and glassy-eyed students work all night in a stuffy basement finishing up their computer projects. But in one corner, Mr. Sattler, now a 20-year-old junior, is having the time of his life.

He helps one young woman dressed in shorts and a T-shirt figure out a computer program. He flirts electronically with a second woman hundreds of miles away. A third female, who has shrugged off the attentions of other men in the computer center, solicits Mr. Sattler’s opinion of her résumé. “It’s idol worship,” Mr. Sattler allows.

It is also a sign of the times. Formerly disdained computer nerds are now big men on campus. Their mastery of inscrutable machines seems to be winning them the hearts of hithero unapproachable young ladies. “There are even a few recorded instances of girls going after hackers instead of football players, says Mr. Sattler. To turn the odds in his favor, he says, he spends 65 hours a week in the computer room and not just doing his homework.

Consider, too, the case of Sylvain Morgaine, a geek (another pejorative term for computer aficionados) who tutors at the Boston University computer center. One coed kisses him twice when he helps her with her computer program. Another asks him out for ice cream.

In Desperate Need

David Ryan, a 24-year-old junior, used to be a physics major, but he says he got lonely working on particle accelerators. Now he poses as a computer-center employee at Boston’s Northeastern University and waits for women with compute problems to flash him what he calls “The Look.”

The Look, he explains, is “like they just finished their last glass of water and they have to walk acros a desert.” When he sees it, which happens several times a week, he pulls up a chair and offer to help. It is a foolproof way to meet women, Mr. Ryan says. “They’re very grateful.” Sometimes they even offer to buy him a pizza.

Mr. Morgaine has a French accent and a ready smile. Mr. Ryan is athletic and outgoing. For men who are less adept socially than they are, the computer come-on can be even more important. Harvard sophomore Martin Picard as too tongue-tied to approach the girl of his dreams, so he concocted a program that made his dormitory room telephone ring whenever she used the campus computer.

The phone finally range one morning at 3, and Mr. Picard ambled over to the computer room to offer his assistance. John McLachian, 19, a shy Northeastern sophomore, was similarly motivated if less innovative: He offered to tutor a young woman gratis in homes of getting a date.

But high-tech love can founder for non-tech reasons. Mr. Picard’s inamorata dropped him after two months. “She thought I was very immature,” concedes the mop-hired Mr. Picard. And Mr. McLachian’s love went unrequited. His tutee decided to pay him $5 an hour and thus keep the relationship all business. “She got an A in the course,” he consoles himself.

Nerdish Nastiness

Some college women complain that nerds sometimes get nasty and use their computer wizardry to harass. A Boston University engineering student says she rarely goes to the computer center except in the company of her boyfriend because of the nerd who once programmed “I love you” into a report she composed on the computer and handed in for a grade. (The professor she submitted the paper to never commented on it.) “Some of the guys who hang out here are pretty perverted,” she says.

Heavy breathing by computer is another form of sexual harassment, some students complain. Christina Hills, a senior, says a man sent her obscene messages, which she won’t repeat, on Boston University’s computer. He did so until she confronted him in the terminal room and loudly invited him to “see me at the window,” which is the local equivalent of “meet me outside.”

Coeds at Framingham State College near Boston complain of the computer cad who snuggles up behind them and envelops them in his arms as he taps and programs on their keyboards. What’s worse, they can’t figure out the program when he’s finished.

But sophomore Ed Mongeau, a Framingham State gweep (which is something else they call computer mavens), denies that electronic Lotharios such as himself harass women. “I help gentlemen, too,” he protests. Still, he acknowledges that one woman so objected to the notes he was sending her via computer that she refused after one date to go out with him again.

Marie des Jardins, 19, is herself an avowed nerd. She helps guys at Harvard’s computer center. That is part of her part-time job there. She also has done something electronic flirting of her own by leaving messages for men whom she knew only by their computer passwords. he likes the nerds in the computer room, in part because “Here you can do what you feel like and it’s fine,” she says.

One thing she felt like doing was dating a young computer-center employee who took six months to get up the nerve to invite her out. They got along so well, as it turned out, that a few months later she proposed marriage and he, bashfully, accepted.

Boston University’s Miss Hills, after facing don the computer creep who was bothering her, recently smiled upon another computer suitor. HIs code name is Silence; hers is Ruby.

“Ah, what a gem,” he once tapped into his machine and transferred to hers. Silence, whose proper name is Mark Forrester, and Ruby (Miss Hills) now send each other computer love notes each morning. “It’s the first thing we see everyday,” she says.

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