Thursday, September 20, 2007

The First Online Romance

When I was looking up some history on AOL, I thought back to an old debate some of we "online old timers" used to have about who the first couple was to get married who met online.

For the longest time we used to say it was ChrisDOS and Zebra3, who, if I remember correctly, were a zookeeper from Chicago and a financial consultant from Boston who met on the "CB Simulator" on CompuServe and got married.

Some years ago I was telling this story on the "packet" data network on Amateur Radio and someone told me, "Oh, no, oh, no ... I have one to top that."

He related a story of a couple he had once known who had met via amateur radio back before the Second World War. As the story goes there was a young man who used to communicate via CW (Morse Code) with a missionary of some sort in Africa. The missionary had a daughter about his age and one day the young man in the US asks the daughter to put her father on the "key" and he proceeds to ask the father's permission to marry his daughter. From all accounts, the missionary and his daughter returned to the states, the daughter married the young man and they lived happily ever after.

Then I ran into this book called The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage. Standage recounts a tale from an 1891 edition of Western Electrician about a young landline telegraph operator named John Stansbury.

Seems this John Stansbury had become friends with another telegraph operator he knew only as "Mat". In fact they had discussed going on a fishing trip together.

Well, at some point, John Stansbury took quite ill and Mat came to try to help out. When Stansbury's fever broke he saw a woman standing over him, and, sure enough - it was Mat.

They were married soon after.

You know what - probably someone ought to write a book about these three couples.

I would imagine that ChisDOS and Zebra3 are still alive and well out there somewhere, although as many times as I have posted this story I've never had anyone come forward who has heard from them. Perhaps they "retired" from the online world at some point and are leading a quiet life somewhere in middle America.

The couple who met via Morse Code on ham radio I once had DETAILED packet bulletin board messages about. Amateur Radio operators who had known this couple FIRST HAND told me ALL the details about them - names, where they were both living when they met, when the died, and so on - ALL lost due to quite a few computer changes over the years.

And John Standage and "Mat" - I wonder what happened to them. Did they contribute anything of sufficient IMPORT to make it into a newspaper or magazine again? Did they have children? Do they have descendents currently alive who, occasionally, on the holidays perhaps, sit around and regale each other about being the result of the very first recorded electronic romance ...

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At January 10, 2008 at 2:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the good ole days of the 1990s I met my husband on WORLDS CHAT which is long gone by now... It was just after the compuserve big era. We've been married for 10 years now and going great! I often wonder where some of those people are that we used to hang out with....


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