Monday, January 30, 2017

"Ecologies of Chinese Computing: A Guided Tour through Recent History" at CMU, February 7.



The Carnegie Mellon University Department of History and School of Computer Science will host Thomas Mullaney of Stanford University and his lecture "Ecologies of Chinese Computing: A Guided Tour through Recent History" on February 7.
Early in the history of computing, Western engineers determined that a 5 x 7 dot matrix grid offered sufficient resolution to print legible Latin alphabetic letters. To do the same for Chinese - a writing system with no alphabet, and whose graphemes present greater structural nuance, variation, and complexity - required engineers to expand this grid to no less than 18 x 22. In the 1960s, the development team behind ASCII (the American Standard Code for Information Interchange) determined that a 7-bit coding scheme and its 128 addresses offered sufficient space for all of the letters of the Latin alphabet, along with numerals and key analphabetic symbols and functions. Chinese characters, by comparison, in theory demanded no less than 16-bit architecture to handle its more than 70,000 characters. And of course, long ago Western computer engineers piggy-backed on the preexisting typewriter keyboard, using the two-dimensional SHIFT key to toggle between lower and uppercase letters.

By comparison, Chinese keyboard designers from the 1970s onward experimented with what might be termed “hyper-SHIFT” - 15-level SHIFT keys which transformed “flat” touchpad surfaces into hyper-dimensional Chinese character interfaces. Whether in terms of screens, printers, interfaces, character encoding schemes, optical character recognition algorithms, or otherwise, Chinese has constantly pushed to the world of computing far beyond its familiar alphabetic ecologies.

In this talk, Thomas S. Mullaney charts out the ecologies of Chinese computing, an unfamiliar terrain that remains unmapped despite China’s present-day status as a global I.T. powerhouse. Abridged Abstract: Whether in terms of screens, printers, interfaces, character encoding schemes, optical character recognition algorithms, or otherwise, the Chinese language has constantly pushed to the world of computing far beyond its familiar alphabetic ecologies. In this talk, Thomas S. Mullaney charts out the ecologies of Chinese computing, an unfamiliar terrain that remains unmapped despite China’s present-day status as a global I.T. Powerhouse.
The event begins at 4:00 pm in the McKenna, Peter, and Wright Rooms of Cohon University Center and is free and open to the public.

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