October 18, 2018 – March 24, 2019
Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age explores the seemingly impossible, yet technologically crucial Chinese typewriter – a machine that inputs a language with no alphabet, yet has more than 70,000 characters. For centuries, written Chinese has presented fascinating and irresistible puzzles for engineers, linguists, and entrepreneurs alike. With help from the global community, China solved these puzzles, and Chinese became one of the world’s most successful languages in the information age. Radical Machines explores the design, technology, and art of Chinese characters in the information age. Through a collection of rare typewriters and computers — and a diverse array of historic photographs, telegraph code books, typing manuals, ephemera, propaganda posters, and more — we gain unprecedented insight into the still-transforming history of the world’s oldest living language.
The exhibition originated at the East Asia Library of Stanford University and is curated by Stanford historian Dr. Tom Mullaney. Composed of items in his personal collection, which is the largest Chinese and Pan-Asian typewriter and information and technology (IT) collection in the world.