The Search for Mod China: How Chinese Computing Hacked Modernity
Location: Online, via Zoom
Science and Technology Seminar Series
Thomas Mullaney, Professor of History, Stanford University
Register here: https://tinyurl.com/ycp2nkk8During the global rise of consumer PCs in the 1980s, no Western-manufactured computer, printer, monitor, operating system, or software could handle Chinese character input or output. Not “out of the box,” at least. The “Sinicization” of personal computing depended upon a messy, decentralized, and often brilliant series of Chinese hacks and modifications—or “mods,” as the term is often abbreviated within computing circles. Western-built dot-matrix printers were modded. Western-designed disc operating systems were modded. Digital Chinese fonts were custom-designed, pixel by pixel. Basic Input-Output Software (BIOS) was modded. Element by element, engineers in China and elsewhere rendered Western-manufactured computing hardware and software compatible with Chinese. In this talk, Stanford historian Thomas S. Mullaney draws from his forthcoming book The Chinese Computer: A History (MIT Press) to examine an unwritten chapter in the global history of computing—one too often dismissed as “copycatting,” “mimicry,” “piracy,” and “theft.”
Thomas S. Mullaney is Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and recent Kluge Chair in Technology and Society at the Library of Congress. His most recent book, The Chinese Typewriter: A History (MIT Press), received the John K. Fairbank Prize, awarded by the American Historical Association for the best work on the history of East Asia.
Supported by the Asia Center and convened by Professor, Victor Seow, Department of the History of Science.