A Series of Tubes


Friday fun links: J.D. Hayhurst explores the Pneumatic Post of Paris, devised over a century before Al Gore and Ted Stevens took the initiative in creating the Internet. Andrew Boyd has more.

[Via Infocult.]

pneumatic post map.gif

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  1. New York City had the same thing until the 50s.

  2. Parisians used it for much the same reason we use the Internet today: speed of delivery.

    The internet is for porn. Damn those nostalgic Parisians and their pneumatic porn.

  3. Reminds me a bit of the Maginot Line. Probably just as effective.

  4. The island on Lost has a system of pneumatic tubes for carrying messages.

    They also have a crazy French person on that island.

    Coincidence? I think not!

    Which reminds me that it’s time to do the daily server maintenance: 4 8 15 16 23 42

  5. A fax machine is just a waffle iron with a telephone attached!

  6. joe, are you postulating the digital delivery of waffles? Truly, we ARE living in a golden age.

  7. PL-

    Do you remember the Daily Show segment in which Colbert wanted a venture capitalist to fund an effort to send chocolate cake (which is yummy) through fiber optic cables (which are the future)?

  8. They also have a crazy French person on that island.

    Who looked a little… well… Minbari.

  9. “Which reminds me that it’s time to do the daily server maintenance: 4 8 15 16 23 42

    thoreau, you’re not trying to convince us the Hit & Run server is operated by anything nearly as fast, memory rich or powerful as an Apple II, are you?

  10. thoreau,

    No, but I heartily approve of such plans.

    This reminds me of a time when I saw Eric Drexler speaking on the crazy wonders of nanotechnology (at a Cato conference some years ago). He was talking about everyone having their own home nano-manufacturing plant, which, of course, is a really cool idea, even if likely not as feasible as he was making it out to be.

    As an attorney, I was interested in the intellectual property implications of this sort of thing (after I went nuts thinking about the more important nonlegal implications, of course). If I could really manufacture just about anything, well the real trick (other than getting the appropriate materials) would be to get the molecular design of whatever it was I wanted to make. So, if I wanted to replicate a waffle, I’d need to program my nano-factory with the molecular components and specifications for a waffle. Someone would have to take the trouble to come up with that information, which means that if these machines ever do emerge, there’s a ton of money to be made in figuring out how to make things using the machines. And, of course, we’d have people exchanging that sort of information over peer-to-peer networks (I’m downloading the Neiman Marcus cookie (not the recipe–how pass?). . .for free!)

    So, to make a long posting short (Peanut Gallery: TOO LATE!!), there may come a day when I can download Colbert’s chocolate cake specifications via fiber-optic cables, and manufacture it with my Easy-Bake Nano-Oven. Yum! And watching Emeril Live will no longer mean that I can’t taste the food I’m watching the preparation of. I love the future.

  11. Well, Isaac, of course le pneumatique was considered preferable to the telephone — until, say, 1980 the French telephone system was horrible, totally crap indeed. Today it’s ok, thanks to digitalization.

  12. Just think of how quickly Paris’s rats can get from one side of town to the other now

  13. Again: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

  14. Is there any reason we can’t shoot people through pneumatic tubes, a l? the tube system used by banks? I’d like to tube to work in my own personal container.

  15. Whoops! Forgot to change me handle.

  16. black box,


  17. Interesting article.

    Costco uses a similar system to send money and checks from the registers to the counting room upstairs.

  18. Such systems were common in large department stores at one time. When you bought something the salesperson would write up a bill and then send it and your money into the bowels of the building where a clerk would record the sale and send back a receipt and your change.

    Such systems were gradually replaced by the system we see today of cash registers spread throughout the store as that technology improved (Especially when computers enabled sales to be recorded at a central point). Even so they remained in some older stores until well into the 1970s.

    Keep in mind that a major problem in retail trade is employee theft. Keeping all the cash in the custody of a single employee (who could be vetted – or better yet, the owner himself) greatly reduced that problem; not to mention reduction of errors in making change.

  19. The fax machine, Telex and the internet did not fully replace the pneumatic tube. For years I’ve believed that the internet won’t fulfill its promise until there’s a parallel network of pneumatic tubes in place to every household and business.

    Right now, when you order a kitten or a can of Vienna sausages online, it takes at least a day or two and involves trucks, air freight and people carrying the payload from the street to your door. With ubiquitous pneumatic tubes, you could order canned meat products or small domestic animals online and within minutes have them appear on your desk.

  20. The pneumatic post is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck.

    It’s a series of tubes.

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