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Operation Match

By T. JAY Mathews

If you stop to talk to Jeff Tarr, Dave Crump, or Doug Ginsberg for a few minutes, you'll find them fairly conservative human beings--perfectly capable of expressing doubts about the good sense of abolishing the philibuster in the Senate of letting Cliffies into Lamont.

Nonetheless, these two 21-year-old and one 19-year-old have ploted since last spring to overthrow a whole way of life. Their banner reads "SEX," their creed is written on the circuits of a computer, and their initial organized uprising is called Operation Match.

Jeffrey C. Tarr '66, David L. Crump '66, and Douglas H. Ginsburg, are president and vice-presidents respectively of a corporation known as Compatibility Research, Inc. Their first and most successful promotion, Operation Match, is an enterprise that tries to arrange compatible dates.

This fall, approximately 70,000 American college students will send three dollars and a completed questionnaire to the offices of Meussrs. Tarr, Crump and Ginsburg. But few of them will know that the idea was originally conceived, along with the name "Operation Match" in a Winthrop House bull session one December evening last year.

Tarr, along with a classmate named Vaugh Morrill and several others, were discussing the irrationality of two particular social evils: the blind date and the mixer. Somewhere in the conversation one of them asked if computers might not be useful in solving the problem.

Date by Computer

They were aware that computers had been used to match people at special mixers and they knew that some companies in Europe were making a sizable profit from arranging compatible marriages through various technological means. "But what we wanted was something more permanent than a mixer, and more fun than a marriage bureau," a member of the group recalls.

In the course of the conversation, the idea of a computerized datefinding service evolved. The idea excited Tarr, and with the help of Morrill, he went out to see what might be done about it. Dean Munro, a few lawyers and certain technicians at a computer firm all assured Tarr that the idea was feasible.

Tarr and Morrill, now joined by Crump, thus decided to begin the process of drafting a questionnaire. With the help of friends in the soc rel department, they completed the questionnaire in about two weeks; they began to advertise and distribute it in late February.

By mid-March returns were still light and Tarr, Morrill and Crump in the meantime realized that their estimates of the cost of processing the questionaires had been too low. If their enterprise was to be successful they were going to have to receive 8,000 responses--many more than they thought would come in. At this point a T.V. show, "To Tell the Truth," and a 19-year-old U.C.L.A. coed, Vicki Albright, came to the rescue.

The CBS quiz show contacted Operation Match in March and asked Morrill to appear as one of their "mystery" personalities. Morrill readily consented, and operation Match received a free batch of national publicity. Soon after, Tarr and company decided to help sponsor the visit of Vicki Albright to Harvard. Miss Albright had appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine a few weeks before, and had been selected by the Law School as their "Woman of the Year."

Someone suggested having the computer choose an "ideal" date for Vicki from all the Harvard men who had submitted completed questionnaires. "There were some complaints from guys in other schools," Crump says, "but Jeff and Vaugh and I wanted to give ourselves a better chance." The winner turned out to be Kevin Lewis of Winthrop House, but Tarr, Crump, and Morrill were sufficiently compensated. To begin with, the story and pictures of Kevin and Vicki were picked up by the Associated Press and printed in newspapers as far flung as the L.A. Times, the Macon Telegraph, and the Houston Post. Second, a dinner given for Vicki during the weekend gave Crump an excuse to have several of his original rock-roll compositions performed for the first time. A sample:

Well, I filled out my form and I sent it along,

Never hoping I'd get anything like this.

But now when I see her,

Whenever I see her,

I want to give her one great big I.B.M. kiss.

She's my I.B.M. baby, the ideal lady,

She's my I.B.M. baby.

From the first time I met her I couldn't forget her,

She's my I.B.M. baby.

Well we've dated sometime,

Things are going just fine, and I'd like to settle down with her.

Just like birds of a feather

We put 2 and 2 together, and we came one with an I.B.M. affair.

She's my I.B.M. baby, I don't mean maybe,

She's my I.B.M. baby.

This song never made the big time, but with the help of Vicki & CBS Operation Match did. The volume of returned questionnaires doubled in the last week before the deadline and Tarr, Crump, and Ginsburg could begin to plan a big summer. They set up offices in New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Bloomington, Detroit, and Boston.

This was rapid expansion, and as the summer rolled on it began to look like a mistake. Only about 70 people responded in Bloomington, and even the Boston area response was mediocre. Operation Match's manager here, who was solely on commission, spent a very unprofitable summer.

Tarr attributes the summer slump to a lack of time for organization of these new areas. Because they worked through summer schools, Operation organizers sometimes had as little as eight weeks time to make advertising and press contacts, win approval for their product, and finally collect and program questionnaires.

Additional Capital

Despite relative successes in San Francisco and New York, over the whole country Operation Match had incurred a sizable loss, and they were going to need additional capital to keep going. Somehow, Tarr and company found a New York firm--Data Processing, Inc.--who agreed to support them financially. Tarr and Crump had been joined at the end of the spring by Ginsburg, who had dropped out of Cornell ("Out of boredom," Tarr says) during the spring term. By mid summer, Vaugh Morrill had lost interest and had decided to leave the corporation. Therefore, under the present arrangement, Tarr, Crump, and Ginsburg are the three principle stock holders.

Ginsburg, the non-student of the three has been doing most of the work this fall as manager of the Compatibility Research offices on Central Square. The offices are unadorned except for five long tables. At these tables three secretaries work to cut and pencil their way through the day's intake of money and completed questionnaires. Ginsburg, who wants to go to Harvard next year, spends 70 hours a week at the office.

New Projects

With their Avco 1790 computer humming through thousands of responses on a quiet street in Wilmington, Tarr, Crump, and Ginsburg seem anxious to get on to other things. For instance, there are the 200 page movie script and 30 capsule plots for a T.V. situation comedy that Crump's roommate, John P. Bochner '66, has written on the match theme. Ginsburg is Bochner's agent, and he is now trying to get both the movie and the T.V. series produced. From the "fabulous contacts". Tarr says were established throughout the country this summer, the corporation is beginning to inundate the continental U.S. with offices. There are professionals--lawyers, researchers, public relations firms--everywhere in the organization.

Besides all this, Operation Match is due soon to hit the high schools. Cap Weinberger '68, their successful San Francisco manager, is in charge of this operation and is optimistic. "We have ten test areas laid out throughout the country," Weinberger says. "I don't know just how we'll work it, but its got to be done as inoffensively as possible. Perhaps we'll approach student councils, or state student council associations, or maybe even the PTA."

Tarr thinks colleges who want to match freshmen roommates, and businesses who want to select personnel, will provide the next market for Compatibility Research. He has hired a research company called Potentials, Inc.--a group of new Ph.D's from the University's Psychology and Soc Rel departments--to work on the questionnaires for these areas as well as for the high school match.

Its difficult to tell where Operation Match will go after this. Some have suggested that Compatibility Research try to arrange marriages. "But we don't find that very interesting," Ginsburg replies. Prospects for financial success this year are so promising (Ginsburg estimates, with probably some exaggeration, an intake of $1.5 million by March) that it no longer is reasonable to be an amused skeptic about Operation Match.

There is no denying that Tarr, Crump, and Ginsburg have, before anyone else, developed a very interesting, very profitable by-product of the modern technological revolution. Their drive and foresight have been proven, and seems like the future may belie the outcome Krump contemplated in another one of his tunes:

Well for goodness sake,

Old heart-ache.

Computer you hurt me, hurt me bad.

Computer blues.

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