About this project
Are you a computer history buff, or a typewriter enthusiast? Are you a Chinese history aficionado? Are you into busting urban myths and stereotypes? Are you a word coding and puzzle geek? Are you into ingenious antique/vintage mechanical devices? Are you proud of your Chinese heritage? If so, please read on and consider supporting our campaign!
Over the past 10 years, I have compiled one of the largest collections of Chinese typewriters in the world - as well as rare East Asian Information Technology artifacts and archival materials on printing, telegraphy, computing, and more.
I'm ready to bring this one-of-a-kind collection around the globe - with your help, that is!
The Chinese language contains more than 70,000 characters, and no alphabet.
Knowing this, imagine yourself in the 1860s at the dawn of telegraphy, trying to invent Morse Code for Chinese. How would you do it?
Imagine yourself in the 1890s trying to invent a Chinese typewriter. How do you fit 70,000 characters onto less than 50 keys!
Or perhaps you are in the 1950s, trying to invent a Chinese computer. How do you fit Chinese on a QWERTY keyboard?
These are fascinating and irresistible engineering puzzles.
These puzzles were so irresistible, in fact, that for 150 years they attracted brilliant and eccentric engineers, linguists, and entrepreneurs from all over the world, including from IBM, RCA, MIT, NYU, Stanford, Harvard, the Wang supercomputer laboratory, the CIA, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the Pentagon, the RAND Corporation, the British telecommunications giant Cable and Wireless, Silicon Valley, the Graphics Arts Research Foundation, the Taiwanese military, the Soviet military, Japanese industrial circles, and the highest rungs of mainland Chinese intellectual, industrial, and military establishments.
These men and women not only had to think "outside the box" – they had to forget the box ever existed!
It may seem impossible, and yet it happened. With help from the global community, China solved these puzzles and went from being the "dark horse" of the IT world, to a global IT powerhouse with new "unicorn" start-ups appearing each passing year.
Our campaign is called "Save the Chinese Typewriter," raising the question: Save it from what?
We are trying to "Save" the Chinese Typewriter – and the History of Modern Chinese IT – from misunderstanding and oblivion.
Every day, more than 1,000,000,000 people use one or another form of Chinese Information Technology – whether texting on their smart phones, running Chinese-language web searches, or simply creating a document in Word. What is more, China and Asia are now prime engines (and markets) of IT innovation – a part of the world that every company in Silicon Valley has its eyes on.
Despite the size and importance of Chinese IT, there has never been a museum exhibit dedicated to this critically important chapter in the history of technology - until now!
Why is it is important to know more about this history, though?
Well, for more than 200 years, all of the most powerful IT innovations have depended upon alphabets in order to function work: telegraphy, typewriting, computing, and more. For most of this history, people assumed that the only way China would become "modern" was to get rid of their non-alphabetic writing system altogether. Supposedly there was no other way.
Fast forward to the present, and it seems that China has defied such predictions: Chinese characters are alive and well, and East Asian countries like China, Taiwan, and Singapore are IT powerhouses.
The answer to this question is one of the many fascinating stories contained in this museum exhibit - an exhibit that will capture the imagination of anyone with an interest in technology, world culture, China, language, and innovation.
In addition to being the world's largest collection on the history of Chinese typewriting, this collection is also perhaps the largest on the history of Chinese computers and computing as well!
Japanese typewriters are also fascinating machines whose history has been overlooked for far too long. While collecting artifacts for the Chinese collection, I also assembled one of the world's largest collections of Japanese typewriters, word processors, and other IT artifacts. These are on display at Stanford, and will travel the world as well!
This collection has *no* affiliation with Stanford University. Although I teach at Stanford, and although the "proto-exhibit" is now showing at Stanford, the collection is entirely private, having been assembled over the course of 10 years by the curator and collector, Tom Mullaney.
After the exhibit tours the world, the goal will be to transfer the entire collection to an institution, so as to make it open and available to researchers and the public.
Chances are, if you've ever heard about the Chinese typewriter, it's thanks to MC Hammer. In the video for his platinum hit "U Can't Touch This," the dance he made famous was called - you guessed it - the "Chinese typewriter."
It was supposed to impersonate what a typist in China "must look like" (in Hammer's imagination) scurrying across a massive keyboard with thousands of keys.
MC Hammer is not the first person to make fun of the Chinese typewriter.
Fanciful ideas about Chinese typewriters have long been a way to mock the Chinese language and to prove the "superiority" of English and other alphabetic scripts.
In 1900, the Chinese typewriter was ridiculed in the American press as a technological absurdity that required no less than six people to operate. Others imagined it must be the size of a building.
如果你聽說過中文打字機，那大多數情況下一定是MC Hammer的功勞。在他紅遍美國的MV“U Can’t Touch This”裡，他跳紅的舞蹈的名字就叫中文打字機。
Popular images of Chinese IT haven't changed much in 100 years (even though China is now an IT powerhouse!). Check out this cartoon from just a few years ago — supposedly of a “Chinese computer.”
Suffice it to say, there never existed a Chinese typewriter the size of a building - nor a Chinese computer with thousands of keys. In fact, these machines have been of brilliant design, and deserving of our exploration and admiration.
Just look at how engaged people become when you show them the real things, instead of the imaginary ones.
Mounting a museum exhibit is a complex affair with many moving parts. To mount a successful museum tour, and one that ensures maximum care and safety for this one-of-a-kind collection, your Kickstarter support will help support key expenses:
conservation fees (to ensure the conservation and upkeep of these rare artifacts prior to/following their exhibition)
custom crating (to protect these precious artifacts in their journey around the world, I plan to work with Ship/Art or another top-ranked crating company)
transportation fees (to ship this precious cargo to museum sites around the world)
insurance (legally mandated to cover the cost of damages or replacements if something bad should happen - heaven forbid!)
courier and installation fees (to cover the travel and installation costs for this curator to accompany the artifacts to their exhibit destinations and assist in their installation)
administrative and legal fees (to pay for mandatory contract reviews and administrative documents required by museums/customs officers/etc. for all exhibits)
• 保管费（为了保证这些珍贵艺术品的保存与托管） • 定制装箱（为了在跨国的搬运过程中更好的保护这些珍贵的艺术品，我们计划使用类似Ship/Art这样的顶级装箱服务）
So far, 10 museums spread out across San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, the Boston Area, Hong Kong, Taipei, London, and elsewhere have expressed keen interest in hosting the exhibit. But to help finance this world tour, funds still need to be raised to help defray expenses for conservation, custom museum crating, transportation fees, and insurance fees, as well as expenses related to the tedious but necessary processes of legal and administrative record-keeping.
The time, effort, and funding is all worth it, though: One museum in particular could place this exhibit in front of an estimated 4,000,000 patrons!
Not to worry! Although our hope is to bring this collection to "a museum near you," a major goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to create an online museum where you will be able to explore and learn about this fascinating world, even if you don't live near one of the stops of the world tour.
A "proto-exhibit" is currently up and running on the campus of Stanford University, and it features some of the gems of the collection. To learn more about how to visit the proto-exhibit in person, visit here.
To show gratitude, my team and I have put together a set of head-turning rewards. Each is sure to be a conversation piece in your home or office, and each is accompanied by a detailed brochure to tell you about the piece's history and background.
My collection of Chinese and East Asian Information Technologies is one of the largest in the world. Collection highlights include:
- rare 1970s-era Chinese typewriter
- two rare 1980s-era Chinese word processor/computers
- one of the largest collections of Chinese telegraph code books in the world (from the 1910s through the 1980s)
- rare Chinese computer manuals and textbooks (1960s through the 1980s)
- rare Chinese typewriter manuals and textbooks (1910s through the 1980s)
- two rare 1930s-era Japanese typewriters
- rare 1950s-era Japanese typewriter
- rare 1980s-era Japanese word process/computer
- rare photographs and ephemera
- much more!
- 少见的中文计算机手册以及教科书 （1960年代至1980年代）
- 稀有的中文打字机手册以及教科书 （1910年代至1980年代）
- 两台少见的1930年代日文打字机 • 少见的1950年代日文打字机
Risks and challenges
Having designed and mounted the proto-exhibit at Stanford University, I feel confident in my ability to bring this exciting exhibit around the globe - especially since all future exhibits will be co-developed by the dedicated curatorial and graphic design departments at established museum collections.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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