History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Special Exhibition Label: 'Eccentricity: Unexpected Objects and Irregular Behaviour' (10/5/2011 - 16/10/2011)

Chinese typewriter

The Chinese typewriter is a byword in the media and in popular culture, for something that is absurdly complex or even impossible. In the late-20th century it was used in this sense as the title of a film and the name of a dance; in 2001 it even appeared in an episode of 'The Simpsons'. How could a typewriter cope with tens of thousands of characters? Here is an object where eccentricity is inherent to its nature - at least in the popular view from the West.

In fact there are a number of successful designs of Chinese typewriter. The one on display was made in Japan, by the Nippon Typewriter Company of Tokyo in 1962. The character set indicates that is was intended for use in China and the instruction book is in Chinese.

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It might be wondered how such an exotic object as a Chinese typewriter made in Japan has come to be in the Museum. The explanation is disappointingly banal: it was transferred as redundant equipment from the University's Oriental Institute in 1979.

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