This post is a series of tubes
November 20, 2008 6:04 PM   Subscribe


................................................[this is awesome]
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:12 PM on November 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

"For example, 210 tonnes of water is transported by pipeline to each person living in New York, every year."

Wow. I really must cut back on my water consumption. I'm using nearly a ton a day, it seems.
posted by etc. at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Whoosh! Excellent!
posted by carter at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2008

posted by 7segment at 6:30 PM on November 20, 2008

Awesome, and going right next to History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications in the bookmarks.
posted by carsonb at 6:35 PM on November 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have always wanted to live or work in an old building with one of those message-delivery systems. It's just so ridiculously cool. :)
posted by rokusan at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2008

My dad worked in a building that had one of those pneumatic dispatch systems. I remember the rumbling overhead as a tube would pass from one office to another. I kept one of the dispatch tubes when the system was ripped out. It was a neat little affair, a foot-long perforated metal sleeve with felt bands front and back to help it slide through the pipe. A hinged metal cap snapped shut with a leather banded snap. Left it somewhere as a kid, to my dismay.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:10 PM on November 20, 2008

In 1889, Mr W. Cross's Johnson Pneumatic Tube Company (of 135 and 137 Broadway, New York, USA) constructed an experimental 1,200 foot long, 30 inch diameter tube [19]. The system made use of rolling sphere carriers (capsules). The capsules were described as large cannonballs, 29 inches in diameter, made of iron, and weighing 750 pounds. The system was designed to convey goods (mail and 'valuable goods') over long distances, up to 150 miles. Capsules would travel at an average speed of 200 miles per hour. A capsule on the experimental system was reported to travel from one end of the 1,200 foot line, and back again in eleven seconds.
posted by tellurian at 7:17 PM on November 20, 2008

I like the defensive tone.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on November 20, 2008

Fantastic link from the site, The Beach Pneumatic Transit Co.
posted by tellurian at 7:28 PM on November 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have no idea how these people got their capsules wedged into their pipelines, or why.
posted by not_on_display at 7:28 PM on November 20, 2008

TubeExpress is another similar site, and one which I had seen previously. It is a brilliant idea, and I love everything about it.

I want my packages delivered autonomously to my basement, along with the newspaper, groceries, and beer, thank you very much.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:43 PM on November 20, 2008

I didn't know you could actually still install these in your place of business but it seems General Motors, Ford, Wal-Mart, and Panasonic still use them. I wonder about home use, though. Would that be crossing a line?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:47 PM on November 20, 2008

I'm guessing there might be significant scaling problems with the pneumatic method.
posted by Artw at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2008

For a while now, I've wanted to invent a delivery robot that rolls across the country along high-voltage power lines. Those things are really sturdy and high off the ground, so why not? I haven't gotten around to it yet, but it doesn't sound too hard.
posted by Xezlec at 7:59 PM on November 20, 2008

Had one at the first place I worked, used to convey work orders from the teleprinter in one building to the equipment floor in the adjacent building. Of course, the fun part was loading up the capsules for the return journey with enough nuts, bolts, loose metal pieces, etc, so they'd just make it up the pipe and across the ceiling, then pick up speed on their 30' drop to the far end.

Which was an old-style box-with-canvas-strap collector. Next to the head of an old gentleman of quick anger and nervous disposition. The *THWACK* as it landed, and the accompanying swearwords, could be heard back in the equipment room ;-)

FWIW, they've enjoyed something of a resurgence around here recently. Most supermarkets have them running between the checkouts and the manager's office or cash room, so tills can be regularly emptied without the duty manager carrying a thief-friendly big bag o' cash across the front of the store.
posted by Pinback at 8:01 PM on November 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Does Senator Ted Stevens know about this?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:02 PM on November 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Damn, I just read the post title

... um ...

Does the IETF know about this?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:09 PM on November 20, 2008

There's a hardware store in downtown San Francisco with a pneumatic tube that transports your freshly duplicated keys to the front counter. It is all kinds of awesome, and it indirectly lead to this post.
posted by brundlefly at 8:33 PM on November 20, 2008

The local Chevy dealership had one of these systems in place between their office and garage when I was a kid... the tubes crossed the street between them, carrying work orders I would imagine.

And a few local drive-through banks still used these up until about ten years ago IIRC.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 9:06 PM on November 20, 2008

I've always loved these. I was just thinking about them when I was watching this video on the manufacture of socks and daydreaming about a tube that shoots new socks directly to my house. I mean, they're already shooting through the tube anyway.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:29 PM on November 20, 2008

When I was a kid, these were fairly common in most department stores. The local co-op though, didn't use a vacuum system. They used a capsule that was suspended on wires, that would travel between the cash register, and a central money-changing location. Pay the woman, your money would go into the capsule and whizz off above your head, returning as change, a receipt, and the correct number of dividend stamps.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:34 PM on November 20, 2008

Yeah, these were used at Wachovia drive-through bank in the mid 90s. I wasn't even ten and it was soooo cool.

Ever since, when I hear "The Internet is a series of tubes," I envision plastic lolcat, spam, and porn containers, zipping back and forth across the world.
posted by Korou at 10:55 PM on November 20, 2008

I saw a capsule system being used in the Oslo Ikea branch last year. I don't really know why, but the technology is really appealing to me. If I had one at home, I would label it "teleporter".

They also remind me of another technology that's largely obsolete; the small food elevator thingies from the kitchen to the dining room in large old houses. They probably disappeared at the same time as the house maids, I guess.
posted by Harald74 at 11:59 PM on November 20, 2008

Harald74: That would be a dumbwaiter.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:03 AM on November 21, 2008

When I was a kid, these were fairly common in most department stores.

My mom used to tell me that when SHE was a kid, department stores (at least the ones she went to) had little cable car systems to the registers. I don't get why that would be better than pneumatic tubes, except maybe maintenance.
posted by DU at 4:43 AM on November 21, 2008

They have a section introducing the subject just for teenagers.

How thoughtful.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:44 AM on November 21, 2008

@Korou, still used at my local Wachovias. Also the local Walgreens drugstore.
posted by schwa at 5:00 AM on November 21, 2008

My local US Bank uses one, as does the local Walgreen's.

When I was a kid I had Micronauts, little robotic men with interchangeable parts. One birthday I received the Micronaut Rocket Tubes. As simple as that bastardized race track was it was awesome to my 11 year old self. I had no doubt that by the time I was an adult that we'd all be stuffing ourselves into capsules and wooshing off to work. The only dissapointing thing I remember about that toy is the silly robot that came with it. It had the standard micronaut head which was designed for a 2-3" high humanoid robot but was affixed to this bulky white plastic body so it could woosh through the tubes too. Even to an 11 year old this was stupidly low tech compared to the micronauts themselves.
posted by substrate at 5:38 AM on November 21, 2008

Cool post, thanks! From now on, I'll only send my letters pneumatic post.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:02 AM on November 21, 2008

This, among other trends, just increases my conviction that the world is becoming more and more like the movie Brazil each day.
posted by Standeck at 6:31 AM on November 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Working the stacks at the central library, we used to send those tubes with the occasional dead bug passenger up from the basement or sub-basement to our peers working upstairs. Good times.
posted by cairnish at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2008

Lamont Cranston approves.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2008

Even decades later, I'm still horribly jealous of you, substrate. My relentless campaign of begging and whining and circling things in catalogs was fruitless. Oh, I so wanted those Micronaut Rocket Tubes!

I think they were one of the very first implementations of a Local Area Tube.
posted by argh at 2:40 PM on November 22, 2008

Now if only there were a proper way to conduct such a tube from a mooring to my zeppelin, I could have proper air-ground intercommunication without all the mess and fuss of these confounded pigeons.
posted by eritain at 9:06 PM on November 22, 2008

...and then of course there's the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel.
posted by cali at 11:55 PM on November 22, 2008

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