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Chaos and Control

The Critique of Computation in American Commercial Media (1950-1980)

Steve Anderson, Author

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The Patty Duke Show "The Genius" (1963)

In the second episode of the first season of The Patty Duke Show (1963–66), a Univac 422 plays the Technical Electronic Amplifier Code Handler (TEACH) used by educational-testing expert Paul Lynde to determine students' IQ scores. When Patty gets frustrated with the process and begins pushing buttons at random, it mistakenly results in a genius score. Rather than showing Patty's aptitude for reprogramming a computer, the show is careful to note that the resulting score was strictly random and not indicative of any actual intelligence. The Paul Lynde character, in turn, is stereotypically overinvested in the accuracy of the computer in defiance of logic and the opinions of those who know her. To characterize an early 1960s white-bread conformist comedy such as The Patty Duke Show as "socially normative" is admittedly almost a redundancy. What makes this episode worthy of note is its aggressive denunciation of the potential of an "average" girl such as Patty to excel at anything–including computers–at the precise moment when the computer industry was actively recruiting and supporting women programmers and operators.
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