1973 Archives: “The Frightening Computer Trend”

Dave Unplugs HAL

Yesterday as I was scavenging historical tidbits to share via my library’s #todayinhistory Twitter feed, I came across this treasure from the August 23, 1973 edition of the Lawrence Journal-World.  I’m fascinated that this satirical piece was published long before the Internet (and especially social networks) were widespread.  Viva technophobia!

To help put this in context: just five years earlier, in 1968, Stanley Kubrick had debuted “2001: A Space Odyssey” in which the computer HAL takes on an eerily human personality.  In 1970, both the VCR and dot matrix printer were introduced, bringing more tangible, enduring qualities to personal technology.  Then, in 1971, IBM introduced the first speech-recognition software (with a vocabulary of 5000 words), and the first synthesized computer voice was also demoed.  And finally, in 1972, the floodgates burst when Atari released Pong.

Yet none of this explains the article’s bizarre fixation with marital infidelity.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW?: THE FRIGHTENING COMPUTER TREND
by Art Buchwald

WASHINGTON – Somewhere in this great land of ours there is a computer stashed full of information on you.  Whenever you want a bank loan, a credit card or a job, this computer will, in a matter of seconds, give some total stranger almost every detail of your life. Continue reading