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The Chinese Typewriter: A History (Tom Mullaney, Stanford)

November 7, 2017 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

7 November at 4PM in the McCune Room (6th floor, HSSB)

Abstract: Chinese writing is character-based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Over the past two centuries, Chinese script has encountered presumed alphabetic universalism at every turn, whether in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, or other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. Today, however, after more than a century of resistance against the alphabetic, not only have Chinese characters prevailed, they form the linguistic substrate of the vibrant world of Chinese information technology. In this talk, Stanford historian Tom Mullaney shows how this unlikely transformation happened, by charting out a fascinating series of experiments, prototypes, failures, and successes in the century-long struggle between Chinese characters and the QWERTY keyboard.  

About the Speaker: Thomas S. Mullaney is Associate Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University, and Curator of the international exhibition, Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age. His talk comes from his 2017 book The Chinese Typewriter (The MIT Press). 

[This talk is sponsored jointly by the History Department, the East Asia Center, and the Machines, People, and Politics RFG]


November 7, 2017
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Department of History
(805) 893-4505
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