Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

a series of tubes

  • Four posts into this “post every day” nonsense and I’m back on the dumb list kick.
  • That mall post yesterday broke me. It’s by far the longest thing I’ve written on here. I think it’s twice as long as my 9/11 post.
  • I briefly fell down a k-hole reading about pneumatic mail tubes. Paris created a system in 1866 when their telegraph circuits were overloaded, and it still ran up to 1984. I remember reading about the New York system, but it was scrapped much earlier.
  • I had an infatuation with these tubes from drive-through bank visits as a child. The tellers would always put Dum-Dums lollipops in the tube when they returned my mom’s money.
  • (Best Dum-Dums flavor: root beer, hands down. Worst was probably cream soda or pineapple, both of which tasted like liquid fluoride the dentist gave us.)
  • I get pulled into the New York pneumatic thing occasionally for two reasons: one is Alfred Ely Beach constructing his pneumatic train tube clandestinely. The other is that every time I saw an open trench in Manhattan, I was astounded by the maze of layer after layer of pipe and tunnel and conduit and fiber and wire, and I’ve read that Verizon sometimes ends up having to go to City Hall and pull planning books from the 19th century to figure out that puzzle.
  • Reminds me of the time in Astoria – maybe 02 or 04 – when RCN cut up our entire street to lay down a line of fiber and then seal it back up. They forgot where it was or got bought out or merged or something and ended up having to re-trench and lay another set of fiber.
  • Speaking of obscure data transmission, when I was in Frankfurt a few years ago, we went to the Museum für Kommunikation. It’s interesting how Germany had the Deutsche Bundespost which ran not only mail service, but a postal bank, and telecommunications services, such as computer access.
  • Germany had a service called Bildschirmtext, or BTX. This was a videotex system, basically like an extremely primitive CompuServe-like directory service, with phone directories, shopping, message boards, games, and so on. Starting in 1981, you would rent a BTX dumb terminal that was either freestanding or connected to a TV, and it hooked up to a phone line with a modem. It displayed 480×250 color graphics on screen, and you were charged per page of info. You could also find coin-op terminals at the post office in little booths like pay phones. The museum was filled with bizarre-looking special-purpose terminals, keyboards full of special keys I’d never seen before.
  • What also freaked me out was seeing the Bundespost symbol, the post horn, on these terminals and all over the museum. If you ever read Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
  • I was just watching astronaut.io and saw someone playing a Japanese rail simulator while listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
  • I am glad none of my 6th grade basketball career was video-recorded and posted on YouTube, or someone on the other end of astronaut.io would probably be watching me blowing free-throws.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *