"Hello, my name is Rev. Apple," says the text on the screen of the Apple II. "I'm the world's first ordained computer. Groom, what's your name?"
So far, a half-dozen couples have punched responses into the keyboard and ended up married. The first three were wed on Valentine's Day. One groom wore work clothes and arrived late; his bride wore a pale pantsuit and wept. The second couple chose formal attire and requested a printout of the liturgy.
The "marrying computer" has a human co-celebrant. He is the Rev. Reinhard Jaenisch, a 30-year-old mail-order minister with the University Life Church of Sunnydale who likes to be called Rev. Ron. A parttime minister, he earns a living as an executive headhunter. He says he devised computer weddings "as publicity for the church and a gimmick to get people interested in marriage, the church and God."
Rev. Ron concedes he's also eager to divert quickie-wedding traffic from Reno, Nev. "Heck," he says, "I've married people on their lunch breaks and in cowboy suits. I do custom [nomcomputer] weddings, too. I'm into making church fun."
Apple Computer Inc. hasn't given its blessing to the computer marriages, but a spokesman says, "It's good to have divinity on your side."
There are drawbacks, though. When the program text reaches the bottom of the screen the computer interrupts the ceremony to command the couple to "please press space bar to continue." There's no music yet, either, Rev. Ron says synthesized Mendelssohn will cost the church another $1,000 in software. Finally, the traditionaly matrimonial assent, "I do," doesn't compute. The bride and groom must punch in "y" for yes.
John Bary, managing editor of InfoWorld, a computer tabloid, was invited to attend one of the weddings. He says it was hard to suppress a giggle when "Rev. Apple lit up his screen. "I thought it was essentially silly -- not harmful, just silly," he says. "But then I may have an East Coast bias against such spectacles."
But Rev. Ron insists there are advantages to being wed by computer. It's free at his church. It's modern. The church provides a marriage-counseling program on the Apple II. And if that fails, Rev. Ron is planning to add an "unwedding program" (digital divorce).