“Radical Machines: Chinese In The Information Age” Exhibition

The Museum of Chinese in America

poster for “Radical Machines: Chinese In The Information Age” Exhibition

This event has ended.

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)’s Fall 2018 exhibition Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age explores the historical significance and technological innovation behind the Chinese typewriter, and the role it played in the survival of the Chinese language into the information age. Drawing from archives and collections across 15 countries, the exhibition will feature typewriters and word processors built throughout the past century from San Francisco’s Chinatown to Shanghai including previously un-exhibited typewriters from MOCA’s Collections.
Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age

examines the seemingly impossible 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
puzzles for engineers, linguists, and entrepreneurs.
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.
The exhibition, which originated at Stanford
University, is curated by Dr. Tom Mullaney, Stanford
historian, and comprises items from his personal
collection, which is the largest Chinese and Pan-Asian
typewriter and I.T. collection in the world. MOCA’s
presentation of Radical Machines will be the
exhibition’s first appearance on the East Coast.
Painting of typist with Double Pigeon-brand typewriter, 1950’s People’s Republic of China
Kam Wah Chung & Co., Credit: Tom Adams
The exhibition previously traveled to the San Diego Chinese History Museum and SFO Museum in
San Francisco.
Through the display of rare typewriters and computers — and an array of historic photographs,
telegraph code books, typing manuals, ephemera, propaganda posters, and more — visitors to
MOCA will gain unprecedented insight into the still-transforming history of the world’s oldest living

Objects from MOCA’s Collections that will be exhibited include the oldest known Chinese typewriter in the western hemisphere, typewriter slugs, a movable type cabinet, advertising stamps for newspapers, and Chinese American newspapers.
“MOCA is proud to exhibit Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America. “This exhibition enables us to combine the depth of our own collection of Chinese typewriter-related artifacts with the largest modern Chinese information-technology collection in the world to tell the untold story of how the best minds came together in the spirit of Chinese-American cross-cultural exchange to solve the linguistic and engineering puzzle that is the Chinese typewriter.”

Thomas S. Mullaney is Associate Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University. He is the author of The Chinese Typewriter: A History and Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Asian
Studies, Technology & Culture, Aeon, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, and his work has been featured in the LA Times, The Atlantic, the BBC, and in invited lectures at Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and more. He holds a PhD from Columbia University.

“The machines and artifacts on display are in many
ways quintessentially Chinese-American,” said Dr.
Mullaney. “They were the culmination of cross-
cultural exchange between Chinese students
studying at American institutions, like NYU;
Chinese inventors partnering with American
corporations, like IBM; American inventors of non-
Chinese descent thinking about the Chinese script;
and the pioneering work of Chinese-American
linguists and technologists.”



from October 18, 2018 to March 24, 2019

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