SAN FRANCISCO — Forget e-mail, mouse pads, laptops, and the Internet. Silicon Valley's great legacy, as it turns out, may be as testimony to true romance.
How else can you explain the valley's great surplus of single, upper-income bracketed men except as proof that even in this era of commoditization, matters of the heart are more complex than simple economics?
Well, that's one theory anyway. Other explanations of why all these rich single guys are running around unattached include their crushing work schedules, their alleged poor social skills, and their use of occasionally incomprehensible language.
But whatever the explanation for the surplus of available men in Silicon Valley, dubbed by a local newspaper the "Valley of the Guys," an onslaught has begun to change things.
"It's the great untapped market," says Rich Gosse, author, self-proclaimed expert on getting a date and chairman of American Singles, which claims to be the largest nonprofit singles organization in the country.
American Singles is challenging single women from all over America to attend its annual meeting in the Silicon Valley hub of Palo Alto this November and backing it with a guarantee: "Every woman who attends the convention will meet at least one good man - according to her own definition of a good man - or receive her money back," vows Mr. Gosse.
His confidence is based on the facts. Silicon Valley, says Gosse, is the nation's largest metropolitan area with a surplus of unattached males.
And these aren't just any males. They're young. They're highly educated. Their median income is very high. And they're pretty well behaved. Can you say eligible?
Of course the whole idea of turning the business of romance into a business turns some people off.
And given the rising share of women in the workplace, there is no reason to assume financial security is something only women look for in a partner.
But the numbers speak for themselves. Personal classified ads are soaring and organizations that play matchmaker are proliferating. American Singles has a membership of 250,000 and its Web site gets about 1 million hits a day.
Still, some think Gosse has a bigger challenge than he realizes.
"I disagree with the whole idea" that available male singles abound in the world's technology capital, says Georgina Ong, a single woman and founder of Positive Connections, a Silicon Valley dating service.
"I think that there are a lot of men out there, but a lot of them are not emotionally available," says Ms. Ong.
Why would that be? Well, there is the general commitment thing. But beyond that broad stereotype, there is the culture of Silicon Valley.
Work before pleasure?
Here, 60 hour work weeks are not unusual. And perhaps more so than in most places, the intertwining of work and personal life, aided greatly by technology itself, is so pervasive that fully decoupling from work is rare indeed. In other words, a lot of single young men don't have a life outside of work.
For many, it's not just a matter of hours but of depth of devotion. As some local experts see it, there is a kind of passion for work in the valley that may supplant the time and energy needed to create and maintain lasting personal relationships.
"It's an extraordinarily eligible culture and inaccessible, at the same time," says Jim Welch, dating expert with matchmaker.com, an online dating service aggressively marketing itself in the San Francisco Bay Area right now. By that he means that for a large number of the males who look so available on paper, "their hearts are really in their work."
There is also the question of whether techies are appealing. The stereotypical "geek" may not be, but in the valley at least, tastes are a little different. "At the millennium, it's hip to be square," says Mr. Welch.
Whatever, the tech world is doing what it can to bridge the gap.
Online dating services are exploding and experts in the field say it is a much more comfortable medium for some. People can get to know each other for quite a while and yet still remain as anonymous as they like.
Next step: the real world
Of course a real-life encounter can only be put off for so long. To ease that transition from the virtual to the real world, matchmaker.com now hosts dinners where those that so choose, can finally meet face to face in a relatively safe group setting.
That, on a grander scale, is what the American Singles annual convention is all about. As an educational, nonprofit, American Singles devotes its official schedule to educational seminars.
But Gosse knows that for many participants, the real goal is to meet that perfect someone.
That's why last year's convention was so disappointing to many women. It was held in Anchorage, Alaska, because of its large surplus of eligible men. But the timing was not good. The convention was held on the same weekend that hunting season opened and most of the local men were off in the wild.
That's one risk Gosse doesn't face in Silicon Valley.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society