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The Chinese typewriter: a history

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How Chinese characters triumphed over the QWERTY keyboard and laid the foundation for China's information technology successes today.

Chinese writing is character based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Through the years, the Chinese written language encountered presumed alphabetic universalism in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, and other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. This book is about those encounters—in particular thousands of Chinese characters versus the typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard. Thomas Mullaney describes a fascinating series of experiments, prototypes, failures, and successes in the century-long quest for a workable Chinese typewriter.

The earliest Chinese typewriters, Mullaney tells us, were figments of popular imagination, sensational accounts of twelve-foot keyboards with 5,000 keys. One of the first Chinese typewriters actually constructed was invented by a Christian missionary, who organized characters by common usage (but promoted the less-common characters for “Jesus" to the common usage level). Later came typewriters manufactured for use in Chinese offices, and typewriting schools that turned out trained “typewriter girls” and “typewriter boys.” Still later was the “Double Pigeon” typewriter produced by the Shanghai Calculator and Typewriter Factory, the typewriter of choice under Mao. Clerks and secretaries in this era experimented with alternative ways of organizing characters on their tray beds, inventing an input method that was the first instance of “predictive text.”

Today, 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. The Chinese Typewriter, not just an “object history” but grappling with broad questions of technological change and global communication, shows how this happened.

A Study of the Weatherhead East Asian InstituteColumbia University

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ISBN:
9780262036368
9780262340779
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Grouping Information

Grouped Work IDf3fa3364-30f7-735c-60ee-6cc0aa95b635
Grouping Titlechinese typewriter a history
Grouping Authorthomas s mullaney
Grouping Categorybook
Grouping LanguageEnglish (eng)
Last Grouping Update2020-10-22 02:28:14AM
Last Indexed2020-10-22 02:52:10AM
Novelist Primary ISBNnone

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authorThomas S. Mullaney
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display_descriptionHow Chinese characters triumphed over the QWERTY keyboard and laid the foundation for China's information technology successes today.

Chinese writing is character based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Through the years, the Chinese written language encountered presumed alphabetic universalism in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, and other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. This book is about those encounters—in particular thousands of Chinese characters versus the typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard. Thomas Mullaney describes a fascinating series of experiments, prototypes, failures, and successes in the century-long quest for a workable Chinese typewriter.

The earliest Chinese typewriters, Mullaney tells us, were figments of popular imagination, sensational accounts of twelve-foot keyboards with 5,000 keys. One of the first Chinese typewriters actually constructed was invented by a Christian missionary, who organized characters by common usage (but promoted the less-common characters for “Jesus" to the common usage level). Later came typewriters manufactured for use in Chinese offices, and typewriting schools that turned out trained “typewriter girls” and “typewriter boys.” Still later was the “Double Pigeon” typewriter produced by the Shanghai Calculator and Typewriter Factory, the typewriter of choice under Mao. Clerks and secretaries in this era experimented with alternative ways of organizing characters on their tray beds, inventing an input method that was the first instance of “predictive text.”

Today, 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. The Chinese Typewriter, not just an “object history” but grappling with broad questions of technological change and global communication, shows how this happened.

A Study of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
Columbia University

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seriesStudies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute Columbia University
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subject_facetChinese language -- Writing -- History
Communication and technology -- China -- History
Information technology -- China -- History
Typewriters -- History
Typewriters, Chinese -- History
Written communication -- Technological innovations -- China -- History
title_displayThe Chinese typewriter : a history
title_fullThe Chinese Typewriter A History
The Chinese typewriter : a history / Thomas S. Mullaney
title_shortThe Chinese typewriter
title_suba history
topic_facetChinese language
Communication and technology
History
Information technology
Nonfiction
Science
Technological innovations
Technology
Typewriters
Typewriters, Chinese
Writing
Written communication