Since the late 1980s, computers throughout the Sinophone world have featured QWERTY keyboards, employing input techniques that rely upon the Latin alphabet. In this article, I argue that historians of modern China and modern information technology alike have profoundly misunderstood China's QWERTY keyboard and oversimplified the history of China's engagement with the Latin alphabet during the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Scholars have been too quick to fixate on the narrower issue of phoneticization: that is, of attempts to re-inscribe Chinese by creating Latin alphabet-based writing systems that rewire the circuitry of Chinese linguistic signification with the goal of bypassing (and ultimately abolishing) Chinese characters altogether. The historical record alerts us to a much broader history of "Chinese alphabets," however. Based upon three cases, this article explores some of the many schemes in which the goal was to alphabetize Chinese, while also leaving character-based Chinese writing intact.


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pp. S34-S65
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