Posts Tagged ‘Linguistics’

Technologies of Anticipation: How Chinese Typists Invented “Predictive Text” during the Height of Maoism

April 30, 2011

Thomas S. Mullaney of Stanford University will present “Technologies of Anticipation: How Chinese Typists Invented ‘Predictive Text’ during the Height of Maoism,” in Stanford’s Seminar on Science, Technology, and Society (STS).

Abstract: When mechanical Chinese typewriters first entered the marketplace in the 1910s, they featured tray beds containing approximately 2450 free-floating metal characters arranged within a rectangular matrix. Characters were arranged according to the Qing dynasty reference, the Kangxi Dictionary, whose “radical-stroke” system had for centuries formed the basis of an immense and highly diverse information infrastructure encompassing dictionaries, indexes, catalogs, name lists, telegraph codes, typewriters, and more. Beginning in the Republican period (1911-1949), linguists and engineers experimented with alternate organization and retrieval systems, witnessing a proliferation of competing taxonomic systems. It was not until the early Communist period (1949-present), however, that a decentralized network of largely anonymous typists broke with tradition and began to develop natural-language systems of categorizing Chinese characters. Rather than following the radical-stroke system, they sought to maximize the proximity – if not adjacency – of those characters that, when paired together, formed the most commonly used two-character compounds (known in Chinese as ci) and political phrases. What these typists conceptualized and created, this paper will argue, was a technology of probabilistically anticipating the instantly immediate future – or, in other words, the conceptual and practical foundations of what is now referred to as “predictive text” or “autocompletion.” This paper will examine the epistemological, technological, and sociopolitical foundations of this technology, one that has become central to modern computing, commerce, and governmentality.

When: Monday, May 16, 2011. 12:00 PM (Approximate duration of 1.5 hours)

Where: Stanford University, Encina Hall, 2nd Floor East Conference Room (E207) (Map)

Audience: General Public, Students, Faculty/Staff, Alumni/Friends

Sponsor: Hosted by the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

Admission: Free and Open to the Public

Permalinkhttp://events.stanford.edu/events/264/26429

Pinyin and the Chinese Typewriter

August 26, 2010

While in Paris, I also made contact with the Musée des Arts et Métiers, where I was able to view the various Chinese and Japanese machines in their collection. In my ongoing effort to track Read the rest of this entry »

Cable and Wireless Chinese Typewriter

August 26, 2010

As part of my exploratory work this summer, I visited the Cable and Wireless Archives in Porthcurno (part of the famous Porthcurno Telegraph Museum).

My job here, in addition to reading through extensive collections on the Read the rest of this entry »

April 13, 2010

I’ve just returned from an absolutely wonderful trip to see one of the very few extant IBM Chinese Typewriters from the 1940s. Above all, I wish to express my most sincere thanks to Mr. Thomas Russo at the Museum of Business History and Technology for taking so much time out of his schedule, and for all his help thus far. This was a momentous day.

Getting ready to see the IBM Chinese Typewriter

April 2, 2010

I have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks, including my college reunion at Johns Hopkins. During my visit, I will be making a side trip to see what I have reason to believe is the only IBM Chinese Typewriter left in existence. Designed by Gao Zhongqin in the 1940s, IBM developed a limited number of Read the rest of this entry »

Tracking Down an Antique Chinese Typewriter

March 23, 2010

After extensive sleuthing, I finally located this antique Chinese typewriter (built in the late 1930s, but part of a design series that dates back to the late 1910s).

Interview about the Chinese Typewriter

March 23, 2010

In November 2009, I had the pleasure of being interviewed about my Chinese typewriter project. The interview is below, and the article is here.

A Few Choice Photographs from China (Summer 2009)

March 23, 2010

In Summer 2009, I spent two months conducting preliminary archival work in China. The extent of the archival base truly blew me away. Let me share a few of the highlights.

The photograph below was taken at the Commercial Press in Shanghai, which gives a glimpse of what was, it turns out, a major operation for the press.

Having learned a great deal about the IBM Chinese typewriter prior to my trip, I gathered materials that Read the rest of this entry »

More photos of my Chinese typewriter

July 21, 2009
Tom & his new (to him) Chinese Typewriter

Thanks Ann Larie!

My New Chinese Typewriter