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The Chinese Typewriter: A History

author: Thomas S. Mullaney (2017)
date read: 16 November 2020
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This was recommended in a talk at !!Con 2020 about translating Chinese into Morse code, accompanied by a Glitch app for doing the same.

Mum gave it to me for my 27th birthday.

I found it quite interesting, and I took a lot of notes. It goes broadly chronologically – looking at early attempts to build a Chinese typewriter, then later concepts building on those ideas, and the social and business context it grew into. (For example, there’s a lot of discussion of the schools where people learnt how to use the various Chinese typewriters.)

The book really wants to address a wider topic of “how do you fit Chinese into a world dominated by the Roman alphabet”. The typewriter is one part of this, but there are broader social, political and technical aspects – and they all get discussed at appropriate points.

Would recommend to anybody interested in languages, particularly Unicode nerds.

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