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2022-04-15 | 🔗

Our history lesson about the implementation of pneumatic tube systems continues. We also explore how pneumatic tubes are used currently.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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But if you want to listen to part one check out last Friday's classic episode and then pick up here, it's ok I'll, wait. Now it's listenin in eighteen, seventy five, one D brown with the cash carrier which was in in the United States, which was an in building system for sending money throughout department stores and these suckers operated for decades and one Philadelphia retailer one lawmakers installed a really huge system in eighteen, eighty that was just a year after they got electric lighting. I've actually seen these in department stores. Have you ever seen? One of these don't think I have now so there were some old department stores in in Georgia where they still use these now talk more about. You know the purpose of these in department stores.
I am sure there are still quite a few that still have them and the behind the scenes, yeah or or it's one of those things that maybe it's just one of those that's only in older buildings. You know whether or not they're still in use is a question that now that's a different question, but I've actually im operated and I remember wondering how they worked and I'm pretty sure my dad made up a completely fictional, like them sure and science fiction writer to explain. Science. Can I love my dad, but if he doesn't know the answer, he will be more than happy to bake it up and here you pray knew the answer to so. At any rate, I guess I'm in bye, bye, bye, eighteen, eighty six, the postal tube system in London stretched for thirty four miles. That's about fifty four kilometers underneath the city, and it was transmitting thirty, two thousand,
messages per day at speeds up to fifty one miles per hour. That's about eighty two kilometers per hour. That's pretty vast. Ah yeah, the the the mail was carried by what they referred to at the time as ST tubes, which were these like two point. Five inch diameter tubes that were made of lead and encased in iron ducks a couple of feet beneath the street, and today some of these, like I said at the top of our previous episode, are still intact and are used to house telecom cables so really as a series of tubes before it really is. I then in eighteen, ninety two, the Us Congress would authorize and investigate and into this crazy, dramatic mail system thing. This was headed up by Postmaster General John, when a maker who is totally different, Dude, who owns those lines of department stores while ah and yeah he he would to take charge of the project. Yeah yeah, pretty cool
He a pretty rad dude by the way I if, if I am not sure of history MR in history, has ever talked about him, but he basically created the idea of the department store and is you know, went on to be postmaster General did a bunch of stuff so, due to his influence in eighty ninety seven New York C would open their own pneumatic mail system. Whether that would send letters and parcels on a loop under Manhattan Neta about about thirty miles per hour. Forty eight kilometers per hour, not not too shabby most respectable speed. I o this was opera operated by the tubular dispatch company and fully aware that The tubular design is totally tubular that probably the the California
right right, maybe maybe in L A and according to the? U S, p s at peak productivity, six million pieces of mail went through the system daily wow, that's a rate of five carriers per minute, each with a maximum load of some five hundred letters, though, keep in mind. This is eighty ninety seven and remember that in eighty ninety six. That's when Mr Beach died, that's the was going to build the pneumatic tubes, so so around around that time, lots of cities started to to to to have these crazy, pneumatic, tube things and Boston Chicago Philadelphia, St Louis, across the pond, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, ITALY even issued specialized stamps for sending mail through tubes. Hmm they're, really pretty I'll, have to take a look at those yes Then, in nineteen eleven pneumatic tube started being used to assist telephone systems.
How? How do you mean that this was over in in Britain and there they were called ticket tubes? They were used in television stations to help our operators account for calls. So so, when a call with completed the operator would write up a docket honour on a stiff piece of paper that recorded the time of the call and then the duration and total charge the incurred by the customers. There then fall to that. If piece of paper into a sort of sale and just send it straight up to the accounting office interest them at one and the same system. Error messages could also be sent from the switchboards to the machinery rooms. So this is different from what I thought when you said the pneumatic tubes were being held were helping out with telephone systems. I just imagined that future stars
screaming into a tube and hoping someone somewhere down. The line could hear you they they did. Actually, I believe that they did actually have some tubes, like that in some buildings like to shout into this too. Oh sure, like some of the old old ships had those right right, yeah they in naval. But I also just love idea of the like a regional fora for message being like sent on a stiff piece of paper. With just sailed along. I do I imagine. Google will have to bring them back from April fool's day, some sometime in the future and then in nineteen. retain one while the mere comfort I think I, the multi, meter Waldemar comfort, excellent, I'm so bad at German you'd think over the years I would have gotten better anyway. I he was then the
managing editor of Scientific American and he proposed that, like really soon, we should be delivering prepared meals to homes via pneumatic tubes. He was like this is a direct quote. He was like if a letter can be shot through a pneumatic tube from New York to Brooklyn. Why not a five course dinner obviously I don't I gotta like that idea. Just imagine like lawyer, like I didn't, get a full five course meal. I guess maybe I did I can tell us it's mush You have become our having the Willy Wonka gum, except that all the flavors of all the courses are delivered simultaneously. It had sleeves like thirty miles per hour, yeah that never took off not surprising also I mean, obviously in order to have that even work. First of all, the tubes would have to be of a considerable size or rain.
also, you would have to make sure you had the appropriate braking system to make certain that the food was not just converted into sludge by the arrived. I yes and I dont believe that those that those air braking systems were really developed until, like maybe the night, in thirty year eyes there so so at any rate, in nineteen fourteen or by nineteen fourteen. Rather, some third of New York City's mail was being sent by pneumatic tube and but hey that was the year that the World WAR broke, broke out, us Post Office the pneumatic mail system on the basis of fuel preservation after the war, the service would be restored, but only in New York, city and Boston, the other cities of the. U S, they're pneumatic mail systems would remain dormant, Elvis does make sense. Mean. Obviously, during the World war you they're using motors
they're running on fuel and that fuel was very necessary to the war. yeah or some of the workplace opening on steam engines the through Austria and I mean even just from a labour perspective. Oh yeah wanna make certain that you are dedicating that labour to the efforts that are going to give you the most positive outcome that war it's right, although in London those were the pneumatic mail, tube systems were considered important enough to keep going and they they kept their tubes running through the war and especially, I think, because they were tied to 'em that telegraphy yeah. So they were really useful for keeping secret messages secret during the war, especially because you know other quick communication methods. B. Tap right right, so it's obviously tapping into a pneumatic tube would be pretty difficult. You just break the tube right, yeah
How does it take under a city street and break the tube and that people notice yeah, you do that you be heart, will be hard for you to be able to actually intercept the message at all against the area I understand why it would remain to a a way of sending messages in secret. However, the fact that it's a way to send messages in secret also it's a vulnerability, ah yeah, absolutely so in nineteen forty, the Luftwaffe are specifically targeted London's pneumatic tube system. They they successfully bombed out a bunch of it and I it would take about a year to recover the tube system at all and it would not be fully restored until after the war was over. Meanwhile,
while over in Germany, the Berlin system was also targeted but had didn't, didn't suffer enough damage for a lot of it to be taken offline. I mean there were parts that had to be repaired, but it largely remained operational throughout the war yeah. I in nineteen, fifty three, the New York City Post Office, which shut down their mail tubes and those same Ltv that had been proposed by beach back in the day poor beach. Just he just didn't quite live long enough or granted. Again, the electrical system ended up creed being the the the future of the subway share, but still that idea of using it for for freight and for mail was, something that he could have actually happier if he had lived just another year. He would have seen it in operation now, all although by this point that competitor for pneumatic tubes was really motor vehicles,
the Post office began investing in trucks which kind of made, all of these matters to the little bit inefficient by comparison. You know you can't hurt, you can put heavier things more things in a truck and you can drive at further distances. more than one place, though yeah you could actually make multiple stops crazy, but, meanwhile, around the same time, the CIA was busy building a really huge, dramatic tube system on their campus in Langley Virginia. That would wind up transmitting some seven thousand five hundred messages every day, even the NSC wasn't able to read all those will be right ACT with more of a series of tubes. After these messages,
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the kilometers and, like we said this, one was one that was built. Eighteen, sixty five made it all the way through nineteen, seventy six and even survived those world wars mostly intact, sets pretty pretty impressive. I the Paris system would last, One thousand nine hundred and eighty seven Polaris repair system by the way with band that starts at nomad, beat aka the new. I love you so so dearly by nineteen. Eighty, nine, even the CIA would give up the pneumatic ghost as email began, hitting the scene and now with the and I say I'm sure, they're regretting that the or yet the thing in in the UK, the government may still be using pneumatic tubes as late as two thousand and three there's a written record of messages being sent between ten Downing Street and the and the foreign office by Newman the two: how might like right alongside fancied encrypted computer system- and I know it's still
in the norwegian parliamentary building area, because I watched a really good video, so there's a video on Youtube and its it is nor weaken speaking Norwegian. I cannot understand nor regent share so I do not know what the the description as I assume it's an explanation of what is about to happen. Probably saying like this entire videos lies guessing that probably not the, but in this in this video they have a canister, that's outfitted. On one end, with a go pro and light so the light obviously is necessary because they want to capture what it looks like if you were to go through one of these pneumatic tubes. But you need the light because it's going to be dark in there so they have someone from parliament. I assume that the canister into one of the devices they look like aliens I'll talk more about that in just a second.
but they programme where it needs to go. It's like the destination, they hit the button and it gets- pulled up into the pneumatic system and starts rocketing through all those pipes, so you can actually watch the journey and the mayor a minute or so for it to get from where they sent it to it's destination, and I think they even set it so that it hit a place and then had the backtrack. Some, because all at least that's what it looked like yeah, it definitely went through some sort. sorting system, at least once, which is kind of cool like it's not just a straight shot. My wooden like I'm, it looks like a thing going there to act on all your will
was a low more exciting. It also looks pretty raw flag is a lot of clattering around you. It which makes you think, like yeah subway, but based on this principle, may not have been the most gentle of rides yeah, but still pretty awesome and and keep an eye out on Facebook and twitter. A profound and tumblr I'll I'll send out a link to the video because it is pretty interesting to watch. Even if you don't understand or region but that also leads us to a discussion about how pneumatic tubes are being used today in the UK may be used for government purposes in Norway as well maybe in the U S government, particularly in more secretive circles, kind of hard to say rug. They don't really advertise that so creative. No, they do not know that port they advertise that they are secretive, just not how their doing so
in order to really talk about this at one of the things I saw, and I thought I had to bring it up because you know Lauren was on the show to talk about coffee, I yeah the last time I was here. We were talking about how coffee machines, where we're at There was a pneumatic system that very closely tied to coffee, and I thought I'd bring. There is actually a video about this to other, it's not quite as harrowing ethics is your knee through the numeric to you by the Gopro, so there's a accompany. It's called the roasting plant and it's a coffee company that has stores in New York other. When I want the video data to a time when they only had a store in Manhattan, but I've seen the plural used to describe their stores now, so I some other more than one core and they have something called the job but a job about here. So here's what the job about that you get the virtually have green. coffee beans, so how they arrive right. So these are trees, exactly
Once you ve tried them in everything and another thing you can learn more about that and our upset about how can achieve wherever we go into detail us there's a subject were passionate about it's got, so you take the these beans that have not yet been roasted and you put them into canisters that then are attached by tubes to a roaster. Now, whenever you need to roast a specific type of coffee, it can automatically pull the beans from those canisters through the tubes to the roaster. Once it's done roasting, it sends them through other tubes to other storage canisters, so that you have your a different note. Different types of coffee bean. I stood side by side and they're all sorted properly, and this way, when you want a particular type of copy, let's say that you go in and you're like. I want a mix of sumatran and ethiopian coffee. You could totally do that and the system will end up.
Pulling exactly the right number of beans from each eye in measures that automatically and the roaster or yeah the whole thing is automatic, so it's pretty pretty cool to look at and from what I understand, the way they described their stores is that it's like walking into a giant coffee machine except the coffee machine. also arrest her. So it goes beyond what is an normal coffee machine. Does, though, I'm pretty sure that they have to roast the beans ahead of time, because there's no way you could wrote them fast enough for someone waiting for a cup of coffee together, candy think I we ask that risk. Seeing them that fast would have to be at temperatures that you don't really want to just burn the b yeah, so my guess is that they they roast them and then what happens is when you order a cup of coffee, the for the the first ones that had gone through that that process are the one sir
subsea and from what I've heard about the the company. They don't keep any roasted beans longer than forty eight hours, because after that, if they as well, they should not, because now it's no longer as fresh right up, but there are also other uses. A lot of hospital systems are using pneumatic tubes, yeah yeah, it's I it's really convenient, as it turns out you're transporting and at things things like like specimens and documents that important time stamp, Yankee across caps, and it is this one really again after watching videos of the nomadic too like the journey through it. It surprised me to think of me all things like specimens and drugs being delivered this way, because, typically youth that consider those to be really delicate. like it usually in like glass, containers and stuff. So I looked at a company that does this called Swift log
at just one company that does pneumatic systems for hospitals. That is one of the things they offer and the pictures explained a lot. So the canisters were not just big plastic containers that you would put stuff in. They were actually they had a foam in them with openings that were just large enough to put in things like a vial of blood as cool as It holds it steady and and padded all around, and then you can close it up and obviously, if you're talking about things like healthcare talking about patient privacy, you're talking about delivery of drugs, there's a high need for security. With the system share yeah, you don't want to stab anyone walking off the street and opening up a canister right, yeah, whether that's because that has no drugs. That would be illegal for you to obtain without prescription or it contained some sensitive information about a particular person. Whatever the reason you would not want that to happen so allow these is
also have security measures in place so that you cannot retrieve the canister. Unless you do something else. First, like insert a so you would have to know what the pain was to retrieve that particular canister. You would have a look notification again. It looks like an atm. He would walk up to it and would say like a secure carrier and in the hell is, is in the system and to retrieve it. You'd have to put in the pen, or you might have to scan like a badge. So let's say that long and I work in the same hospital and I was Lauren some some information, I could make sure to pick her from a specifically to to me. Yes, at the yeah exactly you would wipe your badge You be the only person capable of retrieving that particular whatever cancer and in
in a hospital, obviously cutting down on the amount of time it takes to deal with this sort of stuff is a huge benefit both to the patient and to the hospital itself, all right, so that you can understand why this sort of system would be put in place and they're they're, usually these days so complex that they have to be controlled by computers. Yet, as I you know, human button pushing is not as ideal, especially once you get into the really complex systems I was reading about and Stanford hospitals which started installing this huge pneumatic system in nineteen. Ninety three before then, a team of, like twenty people, had the job of running important samples and results around the expanding Stanford Hospital Campus and some eight million samples and results per year and and and even at that team of twenty people. They were frequently short staffed, which is you know, really bad news when the freshness of the samples and or the immediacy of the results
are are important to a patient's health and welfare according to Sanford the system, as of now ish, ah hosts one hundred and twenty four stations, every nursing unit has it's own. There are one hundred and forty one transfer units. Ninety nine enters one connectors and twenty nine blowers well and to alert employees to the arrival of the containers. The system has more than three dozen different combinations. Chimes. I can only imagine what it's like learning. What each time is signify: if you're like, oh, no, no, no honey, that was beep, beep Boop your feet, Boop Boop! The bureau does that for you if you are hearing two groups? Don't even bother yeah highway to hell you looking for,
totally different, totally unrelated one? One is much faster to a very undesirable location. Go one takes a lot more effort, but you love being there to think of it in those scents and you'll be fine. I have these. These canisters that they use can can go up to eighteen miles per hour, which means that even at peak use of the system which can which can get very busy, it only takes about three minutes for a package to transfer the longest breach in this, which is pretty cool- I mean, if you ve, ever been in one of these huge hospitals. You have to realise that if you were to physically give this to someone and have them run it across Ampas, yeah and and take elevators or stairs. I mean these. These buildings can be gargantuan I sure like. If you ever go to like here's an example Lana Grady Memorial Hospital is an enormous beast of a building tat. Hey I've always wanted to do this. I shouted twenty twenty two,
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They're, not food, get everything delivered from groceries to alcohol to so much more overrides, get anything don't always eat it. Not literally anything item. Availability varies by market alcohol and select. Cities only must be twenty one. In order to purchase see up for details throughout Three electricity has inspired some pretty incredible inventions, for instance those little robot vacuums, people name like pets and smart phones which brought us the Winkie face. Emotion. But of all the great things. Nothing quite compares to the Hyundai Ionic five. This thing has all the tech you would ever want one. Two percent electric two way charging capability up to a three hundred mile range and with just one look you can see it's different, sharp body lines so inspired. Like clusters and a spacious, flexible interior is fully electric inside, Introducing the first ever Hyundai Ionic five, your journey,
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yeah pneumatic systems are also being used in industrial plants and factories and have been since about the nineteen seventies are really powerful. Tube systems began to to see use as transporters of like heavy machine parts and gravel and stuff like at with within factory. I read: I carry them fathom I'll terrifying. I yeah, I didn't read any numbers on, unlike exactly the horsepower required for this kind of thing, and you know again we're talking air pressure as the thing that moves this stuff is a lot of air pressure. That's scary, business yeah. I can only imagine the size of the canisters. To I mean you have to have something: that's going to be creating that field. Like this, don't just loose machine parts rattling through tubes. I would hope not to that would be even more terrifying, but I mean- and I'm sure it's not like a like a civic worth of gravel that you're sending it to say sure you know,
an end. I prettiness, probably on wheeled system similar to what the dispatch this man, London, was that wasn't those weren't just giant canisters either those were the wheeled carts. There were still pushed numerically we're running along on rails. So also we taught earlier and in the first episode we talked about the department stores using these two to transport, money and I was going to talk a little bit more about that and the way I thought. So there are two things I I saw them used at four. I saw them used when somebody would write a check at a department store instead of storing the check at the cashier's desk. They would go ahead and put it into one of these canisters put through the pneumatic tube system to be put to the processing center in ST inside the same store.
in a level that customers never went to cause. It was the office level, and then there were also times whenever you were using really large bills that you know the cashier would not want to have that at his or her station in there right yeah, you don't want to have a lot of high bills at a point where you're going to be interacting with customers a lot, especially a point where you might have to leave the desk. You know responsible thing, the thing that department stores wanted but to get that that big, big money away from the point of contact with customers and into the central processing area, which you can do by shooting at their inadequate and then occasionally you would have the people over at the the central unit create change. So if it was something like using one hundred dollar bill to three dollar item. Then they
they might not have the change at the cashier, but they would end up being able to do that over in the central area and then put it back in another casters in the back down and there you go so like I said I used to seat this department stores and there are a couple of big ones that we would go to when I was a kid the summon, summon actual Atlanta and some of them over closer to Gainesville, which is where I grew up in Gainesville Georgia, not Florida and I'm distinction. Yet there was no The people are like. Oh Florida is no smaller, that little city in in Georgia, are we were the poultry capital the world and had a statue of a chicken in town square as not a joke were didn't? Think you joking, you can look up images on Google image search. If you want to,
Finally, in my childhood, they re up until it was really need to see those could the only other Tom I ever saw them was whenever my parents were going to a bank to deposit money, were you went out with a giant, frail and so Well, the banks like if you are right up there or adjacent to the bank wall, you don't need a pneumatic system that stays just a little bath shelf, that you can kinda push step through right, right, yeah and then you know, they'll they'll use their their grabbing. stick or whatever to get it on their side and then, if you were like one over or two over, obviously, then you would need to have some for delivery system to get either like deposit slips or retrieve things whatever, and that's where the pneumatic tube system would come in. So those would be the places where I've seen them in action and, of course, I've heard about them at other places, but, like I want them to be here like I think we need to have pneumatic tubes allow here it has
work? Yeah? Absolutely I mean it honestly. Once the construction in this building is done, we're going to have a real absence of irritating loud rattling noises, and I think that that that is a niche that can be felt absolutely by pneumatic tubes. Our each bag system does a pretty good job. I get so tired of sending emails, you know yeah, we're trying to work on my handwriting. I think it could be a lot of fun. I I have a feeling we would uninstall it after today, but I am totally in favor of saying: let's install pneumatic tubes, maybe whoever suspects to the blower would have a different opinion than I do. I suspect but at any rate. So this is a really interesting topic. I mean just the again this technology that is so so its old, but is also a kind of no there's something about. I think it has its own kind of appeal: esteem, punk, lily,
and then I had. No idea, no idea that these systems were so widespread, yeah yeah beyond something like the the limited use of the bank like inside of it single building. I had no idea that they spread throughout cities yeah. It's such a, such interesting engineering way to get around the problem of. How do you do liver mail in a dense urban environment in a timely manner, relatively timely at any rate, so we can still make that argument, thank you so yeah it was really cool and Lauren. Thank you so much for joining me on this pair of episodes. How great having you here. Thank you thank you for having me and thanks for thanks for agreeing when I said hey. Let's do this thing on the end, it was so much fun that wraps up series of tubes, a pair of classic tech, stuff episodes from twenty fifteen hope you enjoyed. If you have suggestions for topics should cover or maybe updates. I need to do on certain older episodes feel free
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Transcript generated on 2022-04-16.