136 minutes | Jan 9, 2018

Thomas Mullaney, “The Chinese Typewriter: A History” (MIT Press, 2017)

Tom Mullaney’s new book The Chinese Typewriter: A History provides a fascinating first look at the development of modern Chinese information technology. Spanning 150 years from the origins of telegraphy in the early 1800s to the advent of computing in the 1950s – the book explores the at times fraught relationship between Chinese writing and global modernity. It covers some of the earliest and varied attempts to make the Chinese script fit for Western communication systems, taking the reader on a journey through Chinese telegraphy, Morse code, typewriters and early computing. In addition, Mullaney includes reference to the many failed attempts, ideas and approaches in the history of Chinese information technology through a series of lively and insightful stories and people. Perhaps most interestingly, Mullaney covers how various inbuilt linguistic inequalities in turn eventually led to the evolution of innovative strategies and technologies, including input method and predictive text.

Ricarda Brosch is a museum assistant at the Asian Art Museum Berlin , which is due to reopen as part of the Humboldt Forum in 2019. Her research focuses on Ming and Qing Chinese art & material culture, transcultural interchanges, especially with Timurid and Safavid Iran, as well as provenance research & digital humanities. You can find out more about her work by following her on Twitter @RicardaBeatrix or getting in touch via ricarda.brosch@gmail.com.

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