The First Pizza Ordered by Computer, 1974

By the late 1960s, technologists were already inventing the future we now inhabit. Arthur C. Clarke peered into the future and saw a wired world where information and communication would be immediate and borderless. Marshall McLuhan foresaw the rough outlines of what we now call “social media.” And others predicted that email and ecommerce were on the not-so-distant horizon. It should perhaps then come as no surprise that, just a few years later, The Artificial Language Laboratory at Michigan State developed a way for the computer to start doing some everyday commerce — like ordering pizza.

In 1974 Donald Sherman, whose speech was limited by a neurological disorder called Moebius Syndrome, used a new-fangled device designed by John Eulenberg to dial up a pizzeria. The first call went to Dominos, which hung up. They were apparently too busy becoming a behemoth. Mercifully, a humane pizzeria — Mr. Mike’s — took the call, and history was made. It all plays out above, and we hope that Mr. Mike’s is still thriving all these years later….

via Coudal

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Comments (7)
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  • Rather unfair to blame Domino’s. In that first call Sherman did not preface the order with an explanation that the communication required time to prepare each response. I think prefatory remarks are an important element when initiating communication with someone not familiar with a new communication method. Education is basic to meeting human needs in new and better ways.

    Today the phone company sponsors relay calling, where specially-trained operators can relay calls between people using different senses of perception. And this service is accomplished primarily using people, not computers.

    Of course, pizza today can often be ordered and paid for entirely by computer, using the Web. When we are lucky.

    Disabled people are successfully using assistive technology today, yet blind people still are not granted the ability to vote by themselves in private because not all polling places provide assistive devices, or to know independently what bills are in their wallets, because our bills still don’t contain tactile features representing their denomination, unlike those of 50 other countries.

    More than technology is needed for good solutions; we need the understanding, concern, compassion, and education to meet human needs through human institutions.

  • CrankVonk says:

    Ho cool is that dude? Wow.

  • Alex Oliszewski says:

    Did some quick research. Does not look like Mike’s Pizza is around any more. Also, it doesn’t look like they made it long enough to leave an imprint on the internet (or least on the surface.)

  • Alex says:

    Sandra bullock in “The net”.

  • Phill says:

    “Handicapper”? Was he setting odds on horse races? That term didn’t last too much longer, I think.

  • Clinton Weir says:

    Ordering pizza is an ‘everyday’ task? Wow, no wonder we’re so fat. Maybe we could try cutting back to ordering pizza 5 times per week?

  • Lori Crockett says:

    I laughed out loud when Mr. Mike said, “Can you spell it?” and the computer (Alexander) said, “Yes.” But Mr. Mike was quick and super smart and realized his error and rephrased his question to, “WOULD you spell it?”
    Alexander gave a typical Sheldon response! And then when Alexander was asked to say goodbye, he responded just as literally as Sheldon again with “Goodbye, Alexander.” Too funny!!!!

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