Stanford Libraries receives East Asian information technology collection

Thomas Mullaney

Historian Thomas Mullaney has donated his collection of East Asian information technology to the Stanford Libraries.

The resulting Thomas S. Mullaney East Asian Information Technology History Collection is thought to be the only one of its kind in the world and will soon be accessible in Special Collections in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Archives.

Assembled during 15 years of research and teaching, the collection is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional, containing rare machines alongside archival and printed documents.

“I did not realize that I had become a collector until about halfway through the process,” Mullaney said. “I began by buying a few items from used bookstores for my research. Others were donated to me by people trying to find a home for their antiques. Only after my collection had grown did it dawn on me how rare and fragile these materials were. They needed a permanent home.”

Mullaney donated more than 2,000 items, along with a detailed bibliography and high-resolution scans. Dating from the turn of the 20th century to the present age of computing, the collection has strong Chinese holdings and additional materials from other East Asian countries. It documents the modern history of Chinese and East Asian telegraph codes, typewriters, printing, mimeographs, word processors, computers and other information technologies.

Mullaney has always wanted to share his collection with the world. He curated a traveling exhibition, Radical Machines: Chinese in the Information Age, which traveled to San Diego, New York and San Francisco.

Within the collection, Mullaney also found numerous connections to Stanford, including Chinese-language user manuals for PCs manufactured by Cromemco, a company founded by two Stanford students and named after their dorm: Crothers Memorial Hall.

Read more about the collection on the Stanford Libraries website.