[KS] Korean typewriters
shkim67 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 20 17:44:38 EDT 2006
Just in case some of you might be interested ...
The question of how a particular design of typewriters has emerged in Korea
is in itself an interesting subject for historical research. In fact, a
couple of years ago, a PhD student in history of science at Seoul National
University presented a paper on that very topic at the Society for the
History of Technology Annual Meeting (see below). And its shorter,
semi-academic version has been published in "K?n-hy?ndae kwahak kisul kwa
sam ?i py?nhwa: Han'guk munhwasa 4 (Modern Science & Technology and Changing
Life: Korean Cultural History 4) [S?ul : Tusan tonga, 2005]."
Hope that more historians/sociologists/anthropologists of science &
technology would join the Korean Studies list!
Program on Science, Technology & Society
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
"Mechanizing Korean": The Evolution of Korean Typewriters
- Kim Tae-Ho, Seoul National University, Korea
(Society for the History of Technology Annual Meeting 2004, Amsterdam)
This paper discusses the invention, development, and competition of Korean
typewriters, which can be regarded as quite unique among non-Roman alphabet
typewriters. One Korean character, which exactly corresponds to one
syllable, is made by combining several unit consonants and vowels in a
uniformly rectangular space. Though Korean typewriters succeeded in
“mechanizing” Korean, this feature of Korean language has posed many
problems to the inventors of Korean typewriters.
The inventors', as well as the public's, responses to these problems varied
according to their philosophical and social positions. GONG Byeong-u, an
ophthalmologist and an amateur inventor, devised a 'high-speed' Hangeul
typewriter in 1949, which was immediately welcomed by the military. The
military government, which seized power by the coup of 1961, forced the use
of typewriters in public offices. However, government officials criticized
the weak points of Gong's typewriter, such as the bad appearances and the
'forgeability' of the characters. They instead turned their eyes to the idea
of the linguist CHOI Hyeon-bae, and developed a different typewriter with a
different keyboard standard. The competition for the standard thus began.
In spite of the government's support, Choi's ideal could not be fully
incarnated in the mechanical typewriter. The standard keyboard established
by the South Korean government in 1969 was only an awkward compromise. The
government finally managed to devise a new mechanical typewriter in 1983,
but its mechanism was so complicated that it gained only a few users. The
choice of the standard was not made by the competition among the typewriters
in the market, but by the introduction of an entirely different group of
electronic typing technologies such as the electronic typewriter, word
processor, and personal computer. I will propose that the standard Korean
typewriter standard was "constructed" through the interaction between social
and technical factors, because it was not only market forces and
governmental interaction, but also the introduction of a novel electronic
technology that overcame the weaknesses of old "mechanical" typewriters.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 1:01 PM
Subject: Re: [KS] Korean typewriters
> Thanks to Messrs. Hoffmann and McCann for their replies.
> Thanks also to one offline correspondent who provided a list of four
> different keyboard layouts that appeared on Korean typewriters, all in
> addition to the du-beolsik and se-beolsik that are popular today...all
> developed to deal in different ways with the challenge of handling final
> consonants. At his suggestion, I'll post a brief summary after I've
> sorted through the links he provided me.
> In reply to Frank, I am not that young--old enough to have gone owned
> three manual typewriters and an electric in my life! But over the course
> of the last decade in which I've visited Korea, not once have I seen a
> typewriter in anyone's home, much to my disappointment. (This problem
> drew me in initially because one of my first Korean-learning textbooks
> used what was clearly typescript for its Han'gu^l sections, with rather
> ungraceful syllables because in single-consonant syllables, there would be
> a gaping space at the bottom where the final consonant would normally go.)
> I've only written in Korean on computers, where of course such mechanical
> problems as where to divide syllables or position consonants are
> irrelevant, handled as they are by program logic and modern printers.
> And David, yes, a virtually unending roll of paper would have been so
> wonderful for stream-of-consciousness writing! A computer works just
> fine--and being able to easily fix typos (let alone endlessly reformat and
> revise!) is a gift from heaven--but somehow, it will never quite be the
> same as the feeling of inked metal on paper.
> Stefan Ewing
>>From: Frank Hoffmann <frank at koreaweb.ws>
>>Big smile ::)
>>How old are you, Stefan? I am sure you can still buy Korean typewriters
>>today as well -- still useful for filling in forms, for example.
>>The input method is exactly the same as you have it now on your computer
>>keyboard. There were (and still are) two methods: 2-b?sik and 3-b?sik. The
>>first one is far more popular.
>>I think if you look at the keyboard images on above website all is pretty
>>self-explanatory ... all basically the same as with a standard Latin
>>character typewriter -- the Han'g? characters in the lower position take
>>the position of small characters (on Latin character typewriter). Of
>>course, a type-written text did not look as elegant as it looks today with
>>a computer. When you hit an initial vocal the carriage would not move,
>>same as if e.g. adding a French accent on a non-French typewriter.
>>From: David McCann <dmccann at fas.harvard.edu>
>>The office person in the school where I taught?The Andong Agriculture and
>>Forestry High School?had a big typewriter. Looked like those old manuals,
>>but big. I tried it, and it had shift keys that would move the roller
>>carriage up and even back into position for the completion of the
>>combination of letters, syllable by syllable.
>>I also remember some years later, in 1974, to be precise, sitting with
>>some other grad students then in Korea for dissertation research, dreaming
>>about the perfect machine. We pictured a typewriter with a huge roll of
>>paper so you could just keep going and going, when you broke through the
>>logjam of research and out into the swift currents of thought. Wishful
>>And then, of course, Screens! Computers! Bliss!
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