ZPi Logo "Serving the Paranoid
since 1997"
The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Posta Pneumatica Update

The Philatelist | 2008-12-17.1015 LMT | Philately | Technology | Cascadia

Welcome to a special addendum issue of Stamp Nook that contains no stamps. Shocking, I know. It does, however, contain a footnote on postal history, so we shall maintain an air of patience while hearing it out.

The blog Division of Labour has found an interesting New York Times article from Dec. 15, 1908 on the rejection by the office of the Postmaster General of a proposal for the U.S. government to own and operate pneumatic tube systems for the delivery of mails. The article in full:

"That it is not feasible and desirable at the present time for the Government to purchase, to install, or to operate pneumatic tubes," is one of the most important conclusions reached by a commission appointed by the Postmaster General to inquire into the feasibility and desirability of the purchase and operation by the Government of pneumatic tubes in the cities where the service is now installed.

The report was to-day transmitted to Congress by Postmaster General Meyer. He approves its conclusions. The commission, however, recommends a further investigation of the subject of Government ownership of the pneumatic tube service in five or six years. The pneumatic tube service is in operation at present in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, and Brooklyn.

The report commends the service as an important auxiliary for the rapid transmission of first-class mail and special delivery mail. It, however, adds these conclusions:

That pneumatic tube service appears to be still in an experimental condition, although progress has been made toward the development of a fixed standard of machinery;

That with the above reservation the regularity and efficiency of the tube service are commendable.

The commission was composed of Postmasters Campbell of Chicago, Mansfield of Boston, Roberts of Brooklynm Wyman of St. Louis, and a number of officials of the Postal Service.


Lyle Zapato

Look Out For Falling Podcars

Lyle Zapato | 2008-09-13.2105 LMT | Monorail Danger | Technology

Speaking of menacing pods, the Monorailists have a new scheme to get us all traveling on dangerous monorails -- the Podcar:

The Podcar: teetering over your home town soon?

It's a "podcar," also called "personal rapid transit" -- a system of vehicles that provide on-demand, private, nonstop travel. These vehicles can carry people or light freight. They ride on small, overhead guideways -- like a monorail or people mover -- above existing roads, and are powered entirely by electricity. Picture the car as an elevated, driverless taxi. It's under computer control, so there would be no accidents, thereby saving lives and lowering insurance costs.

Podcars operate on demand, waiting at off-line stations; they can be summoned if one is not available when you arrive at the station. Each vehicle can hold four people, yet the system can be cost-effective even with a single rider for each trip.

Benefits that monorail podcars have over traditional monorail trains are that when one bursts into flames, only four people will be roasted alive, and you won't be able to fit a frightened elephant inside one. Also, when they stall (and they will), you can get out and push.

Podcars are a poor mimicry of the superior Inteli-Tube pneumatic transportation system* and were designed to confuse the car-obsessed public into building more dangerous monorails. But the sinister ambitions of the Monorailists don't stop with preying on automobilophiles, they also want to replace bicycles with a monorailular version! Will the monorail madness never end?

* The ITPTS was developed by Lyle Zapato & ZPi Laboratories.

Lyle Zapato

Manatee Monorail?

Lyle Zapato | 2006-01-31.2980 LMT | Monorail Danger | Nature

Sufferin' Sirenia! Florida's Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park wants to build a monorail for their manatees:

Although the state plans improvements to make the manatee treatment pools work better for the animals, [park manager Art] Yerian's wish list includes a $100,000 monorail system that would allow park officials to slip manatees into slings, hoist them with pulleys and use the rails to move them from the spring run to the holding or treatment pools.

Aren't these gentle creatures endangered enough without exposing them to the risk of collisions, spontaneous combustions, or abductions? Even worse, the manatee's closest relative is the elephant -- do park officials not know how poorly elephants take to monorails?

I propose a better, more manatee-friendly, less manatee-cidal, way to get them from pool to pool: a Pneumatic Manatee Distribution System. Given their fusiform shape, you wouldn't even need pods; just stuff them in the tube, close the hatch, and press Send.

Zapato Pneumatic Manatee Distribution System

Lyle Zapato

Pneumatic Tubes In Fiction

Lyle Zapato | 2005-08-25.9800 LMT | Technology | Entertainment

Yesterday, I noticed that Wikipedia's entry for "pneumatic tubes" links to my Inteli-tube page. Since I reorganized the site, I went to update the link.

While there, I decided to clarify an ambiguous statement about pneumatic postage stamps (which were mentioned here previously). Of course, I had to also add a picture of one of the stamps.

Then I had to move a misplaced paragraph listing some occurrences of pneumatic tubes in fiction from the postal section. I put it in it's own section and expanded on it:

When pneumatic tubes first came into use in the 19th century, they symbolized technological progress and it was imagined that they would be common in the future. Jules Verne's Paris in the 20th Century (1863) includes suspended pneumatic tube trains that stretch across the oceans. Albert Robida's The Twentieth Century (1882) describes a 1950s Paris where tube trains have replaced railways and pneumatic mail is ubiquitous. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888) envisions the world of 2000 as interlinked with tubes for delivering goods. Michel Verne's An Express of the Future (1888) questions the sensibility of a transatlantic pneumatic subway. In Michel & Jules Verne's The Day of an American Journalist in 2889 (1889) the Society for Supplying Food to the Home allows subscribers to receive meals pneumatically.

Later, because of their use by governments and large businesses, tubes began to symbolize bureaucracy. In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, pneumatic tubes in the Ministry of Truth deliver newspapers to Winston's desk containing articles to be "rectified". The movie Brazil, which has similar themes, also used tubes (as well as other anachronistic technology) to evoke the stagnation of bureaucracy. At the start of each episode of the 1999 television series Fantasy Island, a darker version of the original, bookings for would-be visitors to the Island were sent to the devilish Mr. Roarke via a pneumatic tube from a dusty old travel agency, making the tube seem not so much bureaucratic as sinister.

The failure of pneumatic tubes to live up to their potential as envisioned in previous centuries has placed them in the company of flying cars and dirigibles as ripe for ironic retro-futurism. The 1960s cartoon series The Jetsons featured pneumatic tubes that people could step into and be sucked up and swiftly spit out at their destination. Futurama imagined similar devices for the citizens of 31st century New New York.

But, sometimes a tube is just a tube, and not all pneumatic tubes in fiction are symbolic or meaningful beyond simply being interesting technology. In the James Bond film The Living Daylights, a supposed Soviet defector was smuggled across the Iron Curtain in an oil pipe-line. While not technically a pneumatic tube, the design of the transportation system in Logan's Run, in which cars traveled in elevated clear tubes, seems influenced by pneumatic tube aesthetics.

So, if anyone knows any other notable pneumatic tubes in fiction that I missed, please add to the article.

The Philatelist

Stamp Nook: Posta Pneumatica

The Philatelist | 2005-01-02.2500 LMT | Philately

Good day and welcome to the second edition of Stamp Nook. Today we will be looking at pneumatic postal systems.


While a number of countries had pneumatic message delivery systems of some sort -- most notably the French Carte Pneumatique (or "pneu"), which was popular for sending love letters -- Italy is the only one to have issued stamps specifically for their pneumatic post. (Other countries instead used normal postal stamps or special stationary. Pity.) Italy started issuing pneumatic post stamps in 1913 for their five-city system and continued issuing until 1966, for a total of twenty-three stamps, including minor variations.

The stamp shown here is a 1945 Italian posta pneumatica issue (Scott D18) with a suspicious looking portrait of Galileo Galilei, based on Justus Sustermans' 1636 painting of Galileo at age 72. Galileo presumably was featured on a pneumatic post stamp for his work determining the vertical limit on suction pumps, which he set at 18 braccia. A similar design was previously used on an issue from 1933 (D16), and both were accompanied by issues of lesser face value that featured Dante Alighieri (D15 & D17), no doubt in honour of his literary contributions on the subject of subterranean travel.

Although Italy stopped issuing new pneumatic stamp designs in 1966, their system was apparently still in operation in 1974, but I am unable to find any more information on it.

Not including the heavily modernized system operated by the Republic of Cascadia Postal Authority (which hasn't issued any pneumatic stamps yet, but there's always hoping...), the only remaining pneumatic post system from the Golden Age of Pneumatic Tubes is in Prague. The Prague Pneumatic Mail System entered operation in 1899 for use in sending telegrams and was still in operation until the floods of 2002 (it is undergoing repairs). In it's later years the system has been used primarily by banks for sending original documents and by Czech Telecom to detect leaks in the adjacent gas lines. Quite a sad state of affairs. For more details, see: "I got root on the Prague Pneumatic Post".

Lyle Zapato

RSS Update

Lyle Zapato | 2004-12-08.3300 LMT | Site

Many, many pneumatic tubes
Now you too can get blog in a tube delivered fresh to your pneumatic port array.

This blog now has two RSS 2.0 feeds:

Normal Feed
<description> has only the first 40 words from the post, stripped of all HTML and images. Saves on bandwidth.
Verbose Feed
<description> has the complete post as seen on the site, including links and images. For the lazy.

Choose the feed that best suits your purpose.

Furthermore, being the cutting edge innovator of Internetting technology that I am, I have also added a pneumatic tube feed using my newly invented ZPi Tublog™ technology. If you have p-tube connectivity, available through the Cascadian Postal Authority or your local pneumatic tube provider, you can now get freshly printed hard copies of my blog posts delivered right to your home. Who needs Push when you can Suck! No longer must you suffer the inconvenience and potential electromagnetic dangers of using a computer to read my random musings. To use, simply make sure there's an autoprinter/encapsulator attached to your tube network and point your pneumatic aggrivator to: PTube

Lyle Zapato

The Monorail Vs. Pneumatic Inteli-Tube

Lyle Zapato | 2004-06-01.6010 LMT | Cascadia | Monorail Danger
Typical monorail commute
(Fire enhanced by ZPi for dramatic effect.)

Yesterday, a Seattle monorail caught fire -- the blue one, to be precise. No one was seriously injured, but the incident only further highlights the inherent danger in monorailular transportation methods, that of spontaneous combustion.

Some in the Republic of Cascadia -- mostly Federalists -- are pushing to have our entire nation monorailized. However, in their irrational zeal to chase after some failed 1962 vision of the future, they are overlooking a much better and safer solution to our nation's transportation problems: the Inteli-Tube Pneumatic Transportation System.*

The ITPTS is immune to the sorts of uncontrollable fires that monorails experience. Because pneumatic tubes are designed to create pressure differentials to push the personal transportation pods through them, they can be easily depressurized in an emergency to quickly extinguish any fires. Let's just see the monorailists try and depressurize Seattle! Furthermore, instead of oxygenated air -- which acts as a fire accelerant and through which monorails have no choice but to travel -- pneumatic tubes can be pressurized with inert gasses such as argon to completely eliminate the chance of a fire starting. None of these safety benefits have any effect on commuter comfort since passengers are safely sealed in their pressurized pods.

How many more monorail fires do there need to be before Cascadians realize that monorails are dangerous and that pneumatic tube transportation systems offer us our only hope, for both the future and today? If you ask me, one is already too many.

* The ITPTS was developed by Lyle Zapato & ZPi Laboratories.