Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What ISN'T a series of tubes?

I remember going with my Mom to drive through banks in the '70s where you put your checks and other paperwork in them, and yelled at the teller through an intercom.  I remember in High School, my Dad used to take me clothes shopping at  Seafair, the former Georgia Pacific company store in Fort Bragg, California.  Seafair was a sort of department store that sold mostly western wear.  While I dreaded our visits from a fashion perspective, I was always fascinated by the awesome network of pneumatic tubes that sent cash and receipts from the various departments to the gilded cage in the center of the store, where they kept track of the money.

Here's a Pecha Kucha style slide show about the history of pneumatic tubes as a communication and delivery device.  In our world of instant media gratification and endless possibilities, its hard to imagine how remarkable and game changing this kind of technology must have been in the 19th century.  And I love the metaphor of the "desktop" pneumatic tube technology creating pneumatic tube intranets within companies and institutions.

What were the social implications of pneumatic tube technology?  Did people send each other LOL messages?  Was there pneumatic spam?  Did anyone get a pneumatic tube from a Nigerian prince who was happy to share his fortune if you could spot him a few bucks?

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