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Internet Access Via Pneumatic Tubes -- Whooosh!

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the steampunk-express dept.

Technology 137

selectspec writes: "Old pnuematic tubes used for delivering mail in 19th century cities like New York possibly could be used as piping to hold new fiber lines. Accoding to this nytimes article the tubes were used to deliver mail through New York City via pressurized air in 1897. Now, an entrepreneur wants to use the tubes instead of laying new pipes which would cost upwards of 100 million dollars a mile in New York City." Pneumatic tubes have been ahead of their time for over a century, so it's cool to see some of their inherent latency problems can be overcome by creative re-use.

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Re:RFC 1149 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240745)

Scene: Comms room. BOFH & PFY sit playing Quake.

PFY: Hey, we're loosing packets!
BOFH: Hmmm, looks like a segment on the third floor is blocked. Here, you'll need this Hands the PFY a plunger, high pressure hose, and a fire extinguisher

Scene: Third floor. We hear mad squaking and see thick black smoke and flames

PFY: Oh shit, not again! PFY runs to 'phone, calls BOFH
PFY (Into 'phone): Yeah, looks like the grease ran dry and the friction got 'em. Reckon we've lost about 25% of the pidgeons.

Scene: A little while later, Cafateria. Suit stands at counter.

Suit: That looks nice, what is it exactly?
BOFH (Posing as Chef): Uh, Duck Suprise!
Suit: Oh, sounds lovely. I'll take some.

Fade to black. We hear the faint sounds of the PFY giggling in the background.

I like that idea!

Not new... look at this (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#240746)

Looks like in Italy (more precisely in Rome) we have the copyright... look at this: tml At a point, they say: "Due mesi fa, FastWeb si è aggiudicata la gara indetta dalle Poste Italiane per l?utilizzo della rete di posta pneumatica al fine di cablare il centro di Roma con la fibra ottica..." Ok, I translate: "Two months ago FastWeb won the contest for the use of the pneumatic mail network, with the aim of wiring the center of Rome with optic fiber..."

Re:RFC 1149 (2)

jbuhler (489) | more than 13 years ago | (#240747)

I think for this application, greased ferrets might be more effective than pigeons. Time to amend the RFC...

At least if we go to ferrets, we can say that the Internet not only sucks (and blows), but bites as well.

WilTel (2)

yet another coward (510) | more than 13 years ago | (#240748)

This idea has a solid historical base. A company named WilTel uses decommissioned oil pipelines as conduits for fiber optic cables. They began in 1986. WilTel was sold, and I do not know what has become of it. I believe WorldCom acquired much of the network. Regardless, decommissioned tubes are fiber optic conduits waiting for use.

Re:Steam pipes (2)

garcia (6573) | more than 13 years ago | (#240750)

for whatever reason, BGSU decided not to use their existing tunnel system (crawl spaces w/nice hatches) and instead made trenches all over campus to lay the new lines.. They said it was more economical to do that than to try and figure out what wires were what...

Personally, I think that the pneumatic tubes would be a nice idea, but probably just as difficult..

What they *should* do is use old subway lines as roadways... :) Although, "Winston" may be against that... ;-)

Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (3)

RayChuang (10181) | more than 13 years ago | (#240752)

What's interesting is that a lot of old infrastructure has been used to lay fiber-optic cable in cities.

Because fiber-optic cables tend to be much more tolerant of bad external conditions than copper cables, it's small wonder why old sewage systems and the old pneumatic tubes mentioned in the article are being used to run fiber-optic lines. After all, many railroads made a ton of money using their right-of-way land to run copper and later fiber-optic lines (Southern Pacific was famous for doing this--that's how the modern Sprint communications company was born).

Wireless doesn't work in NYC. (2)

crovira (10242) | more than 13 years ago | (#240753)

If you don't have direct line of sight, you'll never get a signal through (there are a lot of phone cells in NYC.)

Even at that, there is so much echo and shadowing, you can't get a clean signal through without such a performance degradation that its useless. (Its okay for voice quality but that's it.)

In a big city like NYC, Tokyo etc. you're either using cable for your TV signal or you don't watch it.

Pnematic tubes suck fiber??? (2)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 13 years ago | (#240754)

The last few years, we've seen all sorts of crews buring plastic tubing along railroad right-of-ways.

By chance, yesterday, I saw a crew busy working at a railroad crossing. They had a hi-rail truck and a hi-rail crane, with a portable compressor.

A strange contraption connected to the compressor was sucking cable from a big spool (very fast, at about 1m/s). What was surprising was the nearly silent operation of the thingamajig along with the compressor (they usually make a lot of racket).

I suppose that the thing blows air in the tube, and the fiber cable is sucked along with a venturi effect.


Re:Wireless doesn't work in NYC. (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 13 years ago | (#240755)

He anwsered your question. It works fine for voide grade, but nothing above that..

Re:paint it black (2)

einstein (10761) | more than 13 years ago | (#240756)

I believe he's talking about using this to wire buildings that already have an old pnuematic infrastructure...

Re:Cost per mile? (1)

gorgon (12965) | more than 13 years ago | (#240757)

I agree $100 million /mile is ridulous, even for NYC. Somebody screwed up a decimal place somewhere. When they talk a about building a new stadium for the Yankees, the total cost is less than $1 billion. So which would rather have a new stadium, or 10 miles of cable?

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations ...

Re:internet in the tubes... (2)

sharkey (16670) | more than 13 years ago | (#240759)

That's right. Physics is Phun!


Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

BilldaCat (19181) | more than 13 years ago | (#240760)

Speaking of HD's/former Hech's in the NoVA area, the old Hech's near Fairfax Circle is now a HD. So I have 2 HD's no less than a mile from my house.

Both are still crowded as hell on Saturday.

Pnumatic Tubes + RFC1149 = High Speed Net Access (1)

mackman (19286) | more than 13 years ago | (#240761)

IP over avian carriers may become a viable network technology with the addition of pnumatic tubes. I'd guess we could get them pigeons up to 50 or 60 miles per hour, cutting network latency and improving throughput. Of course this would give new meaning to network collision.

Re:paint it black (4)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 13 years ago | (#240762)

To spend money on pnuematic tubing is a complete scam and waste. First off it isn't going to send the light down a fiber line any faster than any other tube, so it would be senseless to go with pnuematic tubing as opposed to plain old PVC tubes from your local hardward store.

They mention that back in 18xx they tested the system by sending a live cat in a tube. I wonder what would happen if we sent a troll through the system? Hopefully there would be plenty of breaks and obstructions.

BTW - just for clarification, idiot, they are using the *existing* tubes in New York City, where it is nearly impossible to run any new lines... the city is built layer upon layer upon layer, and nobody is really sure what does what underground. The classic restaurant in New York has a bathroom that is in the corner, go down the stairs, 100 feet down a cooridor, down some more stairs, make a right, 50 feet across, and the bathroom is five feet up.

Now picture a few square miles worth of these labrythine tunnels in 3D, with sewer, subway and other services running between them, and you'll realize how much easier it is to use existing pipes than try to go through what is necessary to figure out who to pay, who has rights and where you should dig to lay new lines.


Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

the_tsi (19767) | more than 13 years ago | (#240763)

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

"Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes." - Dr. Warren Jackson, Director, UTCS

(Once again, slashdot discussions come back to fortune(1) quotes... Or is it "recycling"? :) )


(What's with this lameness filter bullshit?)
...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...

Re:Further Reading... (1)

Corvar (20297) | more than 13 years ago | (#240765)

Excellent book, as soon as I saw this topic I thought of Victorian Internet. Would move the legacy of the telegraph into the Information age. I also recently heard on NPR a show detailing how Pneumatic Tubes are making a come back. Specifically in hospital centers. They are being used as a way to distribute medications from centralized dispensories, and to bring things like blood samples to labs.

Reduce, re-use, recycle (3)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#240766)

Makes sense. Why not reuse? People seem to be making remarkable efforts with domestic recycling and waste management, it only makes sense that governments do the same -- and it will cost taxpayers less money in the process!

Re:Brazil! (1)

AstroJetson (21336) | more than 13 years ago | (#240767)

Yup, I thought of that too, but the first image I got was "The Difference Engine". A novel by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling, in case you've never heard of it.

Dumb idea (3)

Benjamin Shniper (24107) | more than 13 years ago | (#240768)

Here's an idea: we build pyramids instead of graves. Sure it will cost the taxpayers and businesses more, but think of the extra money we can pay to the workers!

There's plenty of work for contractors to do in NYC, and the pipes can be exposed and repaired later. Give me a break!

And what do you think the difference between an old,rusty iron isulator for the fiber cable is and a new, shiny plastic one? Neither will be truly functional, just space holders to keep the other stuff out of the fiber system.


Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 13 years ago | (#240769)


Sounds like good economics to me. What really counts in a restaurant (other than the building not smelling like sulfur or lacking a roof, etc) is the food. Chili's are nice places to eat in so I would think the new restaurant would be fine.


Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 13 years ago | (#240770)

Actually, I don't eat out too much, but if I wanted Mexican, I would go to Rio Grande. Hey, they serve goat!


Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (2)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 13 years ago | (#240771)

I dunno, in places of business there seems to be an increasing tendency to bulldoze the entire thing and rebuild from scratch. Especially commercial locations.

In Leesburg, VA, Home Depot built a store about 1/4 mile from Hechinger's. When Hechinger's went under, no doubt hastened by HD's tactics, they left a building which has now been vacant for over two years... and this is in one of the fastest growing counties in the country. How much you wanna bet when the property does get reused, the building is demolished?

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We should try it some time.


Re:RFC 1149 (3)

dkh2 (29130) | more than 13 years ago | (#240772)

For those who haven't guessed yet, in this usage "CPIP" stands for "Compressed Pidgeon In Pipe"

Code commentary is like sex.
If it's good, it's VERY good.

Re:just like williams (1)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 13 years ago | (#240774)

I was wondering when someone was going to mention this. Williams used their unused pipleines to run their own back bone. Think about it, they already had the rights to it. The only other non-communication industry that has as much or more right-of-way is the railroad. They've been making big-bucks leasing their right-of-way to communication companies for fiber and other cabling.


Re:just like williams (1)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 13 years ago | (#240775)

Yup. I remember seeing that, too. They buried quite a bit of it, too. At least 8 conduits went in. Is it their fiber or did they lease the ROW?


Re:Wireless doesn't work in NYC. (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#240780)

What about cellphones and radio?

Cost per mile? (2)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#240781)

100 Million per mile?

How did they get that? Wouldn't a good wireless system be much better than even laying down fiber?

Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (2)

tak amalak (55584) | more than 13 years ago | (#240783)

It's super high bandwidth too. Put a 60GB hard drive in a capsule and send it cross town. 60Gb in a few minutes. Not bad!

Tubes aren't out of date yet... (2)

munner (78540) | more than 13 years ago | (#240786)

My office is in one end of a hospital, which is still equiped with tubes. The hospital is about 30 years old, so the use of tubes isn't ancient.

The tube station I've seen was in the maintenance department, used mostly for zipping plans and specs about. The canisters were about 18 inches long, with rubber-stopped ends.

The stations are controlled by 70s-battelstar-gallactica-like buttons, knobs, and lights, used to select the destination of the torpedo.

The air can still be heard wooshing through the ducts.

Brazil! (4)

Speare (84249) | more than 13 years ago | (#240789)

The first thing I thought of, when reading the story, was Terry Gilliam's movie, "Brazil."

When will we have Robert de Niro zip-lining into people's apartments to fix their networks without a 27B-6?

Re:Not new... look at this (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 13 years ago | (#240790)

How exactly would you state your patent for this, anyways?

Insert fiber cable into tube. Pull out of other end. Plug in.

Isn't that one of those natural and obvious advancements of technology that patents don't cover?

Old-skool (1)

Ride-My-Rocket (96935) | more than 13 years ago | (#240791)

Now I can send packets old-school style!

Pneumatic Pnetwork Pneomenclature (3)

4of12 (97621) | more than 13 years ago | (#240792)

This reminds me somewhat of the first implementation of the avian IP network discussed earlier in this forum.

There seems to be a great deal of potential for using pneumatic tubes as part of IP network.

Right off I can think of one problem though. If I were to load my tube with a nonstandard payload, of say a bunch of "holes" (the variety that is produced by a 3-ring punch) or the ever favorite chads then my recipient would likely suffer from packet fragmentation in a big way.

Re:paint it black (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 13 years ago | (#240795)

To put PVC pipes in you have to dig up the ground. These pipes are already in place, ust send in a little robot to pull the fiber through behind it and you don't have to bother breaking ground. The article says it would cost several million to put in a system of conduites that mimic these ald tubes, several million dollars isn't a small amount of money to be saved.
=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\ =\=\=\=\

Home Depot uses pneumatic tubes... (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 13 years ago | (#240796)

Coincidentally, Home Depot uses pneumatic tubes to send cash back and forth from the registers to the back office or wherever they're hording it in the building.


Conspiracy Theory on death of NY Pneumatic Tubes (1)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 13 years ago | (#240797)

This topic reminded me of an article I read several years ago in Wired. Fortunately, that site maintains a freely accessible online archive of past issues, so I was able to dig up a link.

The article talks about how great that technology was (is) and how theories exist about how the owner of a delivery truck company leveraged influence with the city managers to get the tube system dismantled so that he could sell delivery trucks to the city.

Here's a link [] to the article.


Dig just a little deeper... (2)

bartwol (117819) | more than 13 years ago | (#240798)

Another cool idea, a.k.a. "stupid reality."

Those pneumatic tubes are made of cast iron that has been oxidizing in New York's ground for over a century. Let's just say you COULD snake your cables through those corroded pipes, get past all the cracks and breaks, and make your way to where you want to go. Your destination had better be a post office, 'cause that's where those old babies take you. Seems to me, though, that unless you're expecting to move PAPER through your fibers, a phone company central office would be a much better bet for terminating your telecom lines.

Whoever said "there's one born every day" grossly underestimated the extent of the problem.


Amazing infrastructure facts (1)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 13 years ago | (#240799)

New York's first public water system used hollow logs for pipes, and I read somewhere that some of these logs are actually still in use to this day. Seems a little unlikely but I was wondering if anyone had some info on this.


100 million (2)

donglekey (124433) | more than 13 years ago | (#240800)

100 million a mile? That doesn't sound too realistic. Is that supposed to be just for new pipes or for new pipes and fiber optics. If that's how much it costs to do things no wonder DSL and stuff like it fails. Maybe they should rethink their buisness plan if it costs 1/10th of a billion dollars to dig up the ground and put down metal and glass wire for 1 mile.

Reuse is not always best option (2)

evilgrin (128415) | more than 13 years ago | (#240801)

People would like to close their eyes so that a huge problem would disappear without having to deal with it, and then they dress this up as a 'solution' and say they're 'saving millions of dollars per mile' for their cabling project.

Think about this, New York is a festering hive of who-knows-what, layer upon layer of cabling, pipes, electrical conduits, and other miscellaneous detrius of centuries of city living.

New York has been the most densely populated 'modern' city for quite a long time, and by that I mean all the little things like electrical and water access everywhere, etc.

In the past when something broke, they pathced it, instead of doing a more thorough fix, they just paved over a huge sinkhole in a road without looking into why it sunk in the first place, they just pile more new crap on top of the old crap until it's impossible to sort out what lies under the surface.

Now someone want to use an ancient (by modern standards) system, in whatever unknown condition it is in, and try to make a new utility out of it. People are going to come to depend on this utility like they depend on electricity and water, but the infrastructure being used to build it is already over a hundred years old.

'We don't want to dig up the city' they say, 'it'll cost too much money'.

Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but you know what? That money will actually go stright into the economy, workmen will have jobs to go to for the next decade; city infrastructure will be vastly improved as old pipes and cabling are exposed and replaced as their condition is shown; perhaps a new design in city infrastructure management will be put in place so that the same problem doesn't happen again, we could make the entire city of New York what the Epcot Center was supposed to be.

Do you people not have vision at all? This could be the spark for the largest urban redevelopment project ever attempted by humankind, but all you people can do is put your hands over your eyes and carry on the chant 'Do it the cheap fast way!'.

Your lack of vision disturbe me.

London (1)

nick255 (139962) | more than 13 years ago | (#240804)

A similar thing has happened in London. There used to be loads of pipes underground carrying high presure steam around to operate things like London Bridge. Eventually they stopped being used when electricity became widespread, but now they are being used for fibres. Can't remember the name of the company who owned them, but they made a fortune selling the pipes.

Pneumatic tubes for travel? (1)

Sonicboom (141577) | more than 13 years ago | (#240805)

I always thought that we'd have tubes for travel by 2001. Kinda like the elevators in the Jetsons cartoon.

I know they've been using abandoned mail ducts for running copper coax and fiber.

This was a good article! This was news for nerds and stuff that matters!

Further Reading... (2)

natpoor (142801) | more than 13 years ago | (#240806)

If people are interested, Standage's "Victorian Internet [] " deals with pneumatic tubes a fair amount. They were a good complement to the telegraph for short distances since they were actually faster (skipping the encoding and decoding steps).

Re:yes... (1)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 13 years ago | (#240807)

"Your lack of vision disturbe me."

yes... I have visions. Visions of decades long rebuild projects in the heart of manhattan that reduce the already 30 mile an hour average traffic to 15mph, that increase commute times and drive up cab fees to absurd levels. YES! The glorious white elephat visions of bloated disorganized public infrastucture projects that go on aimlessly for years, sucking up billions in tax dollars and showing little in return. The endless political bickering that will ensure the project is never really completed. Oh! the Visions I see!

Yeah, and in case you hadn't noticed, NY is already Disneyfied [] enough thank you without the "Epcot Ideal" you so childishly whine for it to become.

Re:paint it black (1)

rneches (160120) | more than 13 years ago | (#240808)

Um, did you read the article, or is this supposed to be funny? I'm a little confused.

You do realize that the tubing they are talking about has been sitting in the ground and buildings for more than 100 years? That they aren't talking about putting in any new tubing?

Just checking. I didn't know if I should mod this as Funny or Flaimbait, so I declined to do either.


Steam pipes (2)

PirateBek (164098) | more than 13 years ago | (#240809)

At the college I work for, we used our existing steam pipes to hold the fiber connecting buildings on campus...absolutely perfect conduit, and didn't require trenching (much) on our historic property. Plus, a bomb could level the school, and we'd still have network (although if no one is here to use it, is it really a network?)

Don't forget... (1)

SPYvSPY (166790) | more than 13 years ago | (#240810)

...that manual labor in NYC works about 1 hour per day, in the middle of the night, with thirteen mandatory coffee breaks, on a time and materials basis charged back to the taxpayers. Dirty, filthy union leeches sucking on the backs of hard-working wall street yuppies.

Re:Steam pipes (1)

dannywyatt (175432) | more than 13 years ago | (#240811)

Yeah, but the last 10 feet is a bitch... When I was a work-study here [] I once had to ask a student to hold my legs while I leaned out the window to swing some ethernet cable to my boss two floors down and one window over. They were desperate to get that cutting-edge new media center on-line I guess.

And for the two months I worked in hell [] , tenants were taking it on themselves to run cable up the internal inter-floor mail chutes. Only people were still trying to drop physical mail in them...

Patent? (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 13 years ago | (#240813)

Does it bother anyone else that the kid who's pursuing this got a patent for the idea? Like: I'll run fiber through a pipe. The pipe used to be used for pneumatic mail. Therefore this is a fresh invention based on what the pipe once was. What's not entirely obvious about taking any existing pipe and running fiber through it?

Speed! (3)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#240814)

Each container was labeled to indicate the destination of its contents. Special delivery letters were delivered within one hour; regular letters within three.

Thinking about this, I realized that this compares favorably with email, in that between meetings, and so on, the response times are similar. This puts a new light on the commerce of the early 20th century. However:

"the pneumatic service began to pale next to the new technology of the motor-wagon, which could deliver mail two to three times faster than a horse-drawn cart with equal or greater volume and more than 10 times the volume of a pneumatic tube, while only slightly slower."

Now that has gone to hell in a handbasket since then.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

Re:internet in the tubes... (2) (184378) | more than 13 years ago | (#240815)

Physics doesn't suck.

Futurama (1)

DigitalDragon (194314) | more than 13 years ago | (#240816)

Matt knew that those pipes won't just disappear.

New RFC? (1)

metafoobar (195077) | more than 13 years ago | (#240817)

I can just see it now: April 1st 2002 RFCXXXX High Latency Internet Transport Mechanism via Phneumatic Tubes:
  1. Write message on piece of paper
  2. Insert message into capsule thingy
  3. Perform AS2IP (air suction to IP) address mapping
  4. Fire away

Can enhance security by writing message in pig latin.

are you talking about PT Barnum... (1)

donutz (195717) | more than 13 years ago | (#240818)

There's a sucker born every minute...

. . .

internet in the tubes... (4)

donutz (195717) | more than 13 years ago | (#240819)

pneumatic in a sense, someone who gets their access thru them could say their internet really sucks? or would that be blows . . .

. . .

RFC 1149 (4)

egjertse (197141) | more than 13 years ago | (#240820)

Wow! Pneumatic tubes must be exactly what The RFC 1149 project [] needs. Imagine using these for LAN and corporate networks - add a few hundred pigeons, a barrel of grease and voila! High-speed CPIP communication.

No DON'T DO IT!!! (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 13 years ago | (#240821)

Pneumatic tubes are the ONLY way my request for a vacation at the new Fantasy Island can get delivered....

Re:Use the tubes to deliver pizzas! (1)

Mynn (209621) | more than 13 years ago | (#240822)

I don't know about that... I recall a double drive through at Taco Cabana... I think it used a chain-driven lift system on the second lane, like a dumbwaiter of years past, but I dont nkow if it made a big circle like a Ferris Wheel or what.... The food went from the restaurant, over the first drive through, to the second drive through.

Been too long since I've been to Taco Cabana

No kidding, I used them at my previous job. (2)

Mynn (209621) | more than 13 years ago | (#240823)

The building was built in 1994, they had the tube system built in. Put in your tube, pick a button and off it goes. Moves orders from the order desk to the wareheouse, to accounting and back again. Hell, my bank still uses them at the drive-thru...

Re:Tubes aren't out of date yet... (1)

easyfrag (210329) | more than 13 years ago | (#240824)

Hospitals still use them here in Canada too. I can't believe no one mentioned Costco, at the one where I live every cash register has a tube station, the clerks can send off paperwork without leaving their post.

Re:Dig just a little deeper... (1)

BlueJay465 (216717) | more than 13 years ago | (#240825)

I imagine it wouldn't be terribly hard to reinforce a 100 year old pipe. A quick and dirty way could be to flood them with a polymer to line the pipes, fill the cracks, and smooth out the surfaces, literally giving them a new life.


This useless bit of information was brought to you by....uh, who's our sponsor again?

Con Ed in on it too (1)

RexRuther (221243) | more than 13 years ago | (#240826)

Here is a good link to what Con Ed (NYC's Utility company) is doing to get in on the act. Notice they can get a whole telecom network for $110 million []

lacks imagination (1)

gergoos (224340) | more than 13 years ago | (#240827)

Our world does not need another method to deliver metro fiber. However, a modern workable citywide pneumatic tube delivery mechanism, perhaps with robotic intelligence, would be welcomed and great fun besides!

Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

Drakantus (226374) | more than 13 years ago | (#240828)

If you really work near Reston how could ever eat at Chili's? Not to say Chili's is bad, but when the alternative is Rio Grande Cafe...

Does this mean . . . (2)

acceleriter (231439) | more than 13 years ago | (#240829)

. . . that if I stuff carrier pigeons holding IP datagrams inside of these pneumatic tubes that I'm tunneling?

But is it worth the effort? (1)

ishrat (235467) | more than 13 years ago | (#240831)

Having been out of use for so long would have definitely taken it's toll. In such a scenario is it worth renovating those damaged pipes as opposed to placing new and wider pipelines?

Got Tube? (1)

Hellen Back (237557) | more than 13 years ago | (#240832)

This, of course will expidite the's going down the tubes

Re:subways are bigger (2)

Apreche (239272) | more than 13 years ago | (#240833)

I don't think you quite understand. This is fiber optics we're talking here. Here at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) we have two OC3s. One for the internet and one for I2. An OC3 is a huge fiber optic cable. If you were to slice open the cable you would not only be in big big trouble but you would find an interesting cross section. Hey? Where's the fiber? It's a small little circle in the middle of a pile of insulation. Fiber optic cable carries so much data so fast you only need a small bundle of it to get super high speed access. It just requires a lot of protection because it is so fragile.

Re:RFC 1149 (1)

grammar fascist (239789) | more than 13 years ago | (#240834)

Nah. Just use the tubes like they were designed! How many DVD's do you suppose you could fit in a mail canister? Just think of the bandwidth!

It'd be a beast to play Quake on, though.

rats (1)

dataroach (243088) | more than 13 years ago | (#240836)

Don't rats eat fiber-optic cable?

What about.... (2)

V50 (248015) | more than 13 years ago | (#240840)

Internet Access via Carrier Pigeons... It'll be good for everyone in areas where there's no broadband schedualed for the next 5 years (like me, damn 56k, three hours for the Linux Kernel). Unfourtunatly it will be more limited to my Central Office than DSL. I'll have five "plans": One Pigeon with One packet at a time (2-300bps). 10 Pigeons with one Packet each. (20bps-3k). 1 Pigeon with 10 Packets (20bps-3k). 10 Pigeons with 10 Packets each (200bps-30k). Or for the Wealthy, the BroadPigeon option, 100 Pigeons with 10 packets each, (2k-300k).

Of course you'll be more likley to get closer to 2bps-2k but becuase someone MIGHT live next door to me I can advertise "Up to 300k Per Second!!!*" The more pigeons you have the more expensive it is but the more packets they carry the more chance one of them will faint and you'll get packet loss...

*Depending on how close you are to the Central Office of PigeonBand Inc.


Re:just like williams (1)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 13 years ago | (#240841)

Also the toll roads (which are, in general, private entities). I remember a while back, when the Mass Pike was laying down some fat fiber down their median strip.

Re:gold cat5??? (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 13 years ago | (#240842)

It's not the cost of the cable, but rather the cost of digging up the ground, laying the cable, and then filling it back in. Not to mention the redtape and permits. People don't want the sidewalk in front of their apartment getting dug up.

Re:Wireless doesn't work in NYC. (1)

Rosonowski (250492) | more than 13 years ago | (#240843)

The thing being, though, that there is an INCREDIBLE Amount of bandwidth in fiber-op.

Save tons of money on pulling cable, too? (2)

blooflame (252286) | more than 13 years ago | (#240844)

Why not attach the cable to a swivel on the back of a pneumatic canister, put it in the pipe, and pressure behind it? Unless the pipe has lost too much integrity, you could use the old tech to install the new tech - which might be poetic in its way.

Re:just like williams (2)

baptiste (256004) | more than 13 years ago | (#240846)

Electric companies are doing stuff like this too. They apparently have fiber inside or attached underneath miles of ground cable on high tension power lines. At least here in NC, they initially used the fiber to build a comm network to monitor and control remote substations. But teh fiber allows gives them an infrasructure to provide pretty heavy duty bandwidth over long distances. Smart planning IMHO. They needed the fiber anyway so they overbuilt the network knowing full well they could sell the excess bandwidth later.

Course I'm not sure if it has paid off for CP&L at least. They bought some local internet companies (like Interpath) but its been a strange story after that.


just like williams (2)

romey (259459) | more than 13 years ago | (#240847)

That's what williams communications did (initally, before being bought the first time)... Well they used their old oil pipe lines, but same effect.

Well (1)

Husaria (262766) | more than 13 years ago | (#240848)

Quite interesting. They're wondering how to wire up our infrastructure for the 21st century. This is the way. These tubes are probably in some more cities, so expect them to look into using those tubes as well for wiring. If the tubes were widespread, (which they are not), we could consider our 19th century Americans, the builders of our internet networking. Heh

Re:internet in the tubes... (2)

KenRH (265139) | more than 13 years ago | (#240849)

pneumatic in a sense, someone who gets their access thru them could say their internet really sucks? or would that be blows . . .

Probably it does both.

I dont know how the details of the real system, but if you have a pump pumping air out of the pipe at the destination you woud get a force on the post equal to the difference between the effetive vakum and normal astmostferic pressure. So you will have a limmit to your max effect.

If you have a pump behind the post you will get a force equal the difference between astmostferic pressure and the pressure of the pump.

For best effect use a pump both in front of and behind (suck and blow).

In addisjon you must off course factor inn that the air also need to move in the pipe in front off and behind the post.

But everyone has cables to his home already (2)

Sven Tuerpe (265795) | more than 13 years ago | (#240850)

I'd prefer an uninterruptible coffee supply. Tubes would be the perfect solution.

Re:RFC 1149 (1)

SomeoneYouDontKnow (267893) | more than 13 years ago | (#240851)

No, no, no. For this setup, you use rats. They're used to crawling around in small spaces, and besides, NYC has millions of 'em. Of course, you'd better use the small ones because I doubt the regular sized ones could fit through the tubes. And the nice thing about using rats is that the only kind of DoS attack that could possibly be used against them is a bunch of cats, but you'd need some really tough felines to stop New York rats.

Re:Reuse is not always best option (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#240852)

Yes, it will cost a lot of money, but you know what? That money will actually go stright into the economy, workmen will have jobs to go to for the next decade;

Don't worry-- at the rate they're repaving the West Side Highway, workmen should have jobs well into the next millenium.

Re:Use the tubes to deliver pizzas! (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#240853)

There are short-distance tube systems for drive-thru lanes at banks, drug stores, etc. I know some of the engineers designing these things, and they tell me they tried to design a system for fast food. Trouble is, it's extremely difficult to route the tube so the capsule will stay same side up for the whole trip, so drinks get spilled. (In most bank drive-thrus, the capsule goes up, turns 90 degrees, goes out, turns another 90, and arrives upside down.) When they got a working prototype, it looked more like a Lionel train set than anything. 8-) Forget about pizza -- quite aside from spillage, the bigger the tube, the harder it is to make the bends.

Re:Not new... look at this (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#240854)

Very interesting. In the article, it said this guy in NYC has a patent on the process of converting pneumatic tubes to fiber-optic. The Italian plan would seem to be prior art.

Re:Not new... look at this (2)

markmoss (301064) | more than 13 years ago | (#240855)

"Obvious" depends on what court you get the matter in front of. If you have documentary evidence that someone else thought of it first, it's a slamdunk.

For the millionth time! YES, the cat got my tongue (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 13 years ago | (#240860)

The real challenge in Engineering in not to replace the old with the new and then throw the old away. It is to find new uses for what other people throw away as junk. A fiend of my fathers has a business that recycles waste. Alot of people crack jokes about this guy and how he makes a living. Maybe it is because he drives an expensive top of the line Mercedes Benz and they dont??

If this New Yorker pull this off he will make a killing by underbidding alot of people that probalby consider themseves smarter than he is. I wish him good luck! This is a really cool idea.

Re:Sounds cool, but some problems... (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 13 years ago | (#240861)

Even them tunnels are partly unusable. At $ 100 mil a mile just one mile of reused tunnels could pay for an awful lot of things like Hospitals, Law enfocement and urban renovation with the money that is saved.

Re:Brazil! (1)

tb3 (313150) | more than 13 years ago | (#240862)

I thought of "The Shadow" with Alce Baldwin's network of agents sending reports via pneumatic tubes to a central clearing office. There was a pretty cool "tube's eye view' sequence, too.
Never did figure out how the flashing red signal rings worked, though.

Re:Screwed (3)

JediTrainer (314273) | more than 13 years ago | (#240863)

Don't you think that he should have the right to use this if he wants, considering he discovered it?

Well that depends. Suppose I visit your house and I find a long-forgotten baseball card in your basement which turns out to be worth several thousand dollars.

I'd want to say 'finders keepers', but you'd argue that it's your property, and it was found on your property. The fact that you forgot that you had it has no impact on who rightfully owns this.

Likewise, your government spent your tax dollars to build that system. It goes through government-owned land. Even if it was built a century ago, it doesn't change the fact that they paid for, and thus it's their right to decide what to do with it.

In any case, they should let the guy use it, but I don't think it's right to say that they're screwing him because they're not letting him use their stuff for free.

Compressed pigeons, rats and ferrets (1)

geoswan (316494) | more than 13 years ago | (#240864)

Years ago, when I was a kid, I remember reading about a linear accelerator somewhere, where they kept a ferret on staff, which was trained to run through the long tube, dragging a string, which was then used to tow cleaning gizmos, to keep the tube dust-free.

Ferrets can run through really tiny holes. They have been used to hunt pesky rodents, and I suspect they could handle even NYC rats.

After a while the staff at the accelerator doubled the size of the ferret staff, so the ferret could have a mate.

Re:Sounds cool, but some problems... (2)

Chakat (320875) | more than 13 years ago | (#240867)

Firstly, are those tubes still in good condition?
Well, when digging up streets in a fscking expensive city like new york, even a few miles of free conduit can save millions of dollars. And considering that these tubes were designed to be used basically like rifle tubes, I'd be willing to wager that they're probably still in pretty good shape, barring a once over with a good pressure hose.
Secondly, would the tubes have to be converted in any way at all?
Other than the forementioned spring cleaning, probably not. All these guys are looking for is a cheap place to lay underground cable, similar to how in the US most early transcontinential telephone and telegraph lines followed the railroad tracks - the right of way was already established, the investment on their end is pretty much just laying the cable.
Thirdly, are the tubes still readily accessible?
That's why this is just a theory. Right now the guys doing the grunt work to see if it's cheap enough to be feasable. If it isn't, then he's out a few weeks of probably fascinating history research. If it is feasable, he'll probably become a millionaire when everything is said and done.

Dilligence is being done here. Abandoned infrastructure is commonplace in any installation, and if you can reuse it, you're saving resources and time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Use the tubes to deliver pizzas! (3)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | more than 13 years ago | (#240868)

Stuffing em full of wires is useless, lets use em to deliver junk people buy online. Hold on, I'm going to upload you a donut.

Re:Reduce, re-use, recycle (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 13 years ago | (#240871)

Questionable taste - the food's okay.

No, no, no! (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 13 years ago | (#240872)

No, no, no!

Pneumatic tubes!?

Borg nanoprobes! how many times do i have to tell you people!

Sounds cool, but some problems... (2)

ReaganBSD (445631) | more than 13 years ago | (#240874)

Firstly, are those tubes still in good condition? They've been unused for decades--they might be full of rainwater, sewage, etc.

Secondly, would the tubes have to be converted in any way at all? Remember, the tubes are dead tech now. They weren't designed for cable, as that was still decades away.

Thirdly, are the tubes still readily accessible? Right now, I'm thinking of the old subway tunnels in the District of Columbia and New York City. Some of them are still down there, but the entrances/exits have long been sealed.

Cool idea, but due diligence needs to be done.

Re:London (1)

anonymous cupboard (446159) | more than 13 years ago | (#240875)

The company owning the pipes (also used for driving lifts in Victorian times) was a dead-one existing only on some lawyer's books. It was 'spotted' and purchased by Mercury for very little.

The real issue is not the work to lay cable. That costs money, but in a city, the problem is with the legal rights to cross property (Easements). I guess a Mercury employee worked somewhere previously where they came across all this stuff (probably BT) and was able to trace the company.

subways are bigger (2)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | more than 13 years ago | (#240876)

they shoudl jsut run them on the subway lines. i have seen those tubes and they are pretty small. im not sure how much fiber you could pack into them, and it would only be around the downtown core which probably already has fiber. still nice recycling technique.

Screwed (2)

whh3 (450031) | more than 13 years ago | (#240877)

Okay, So, I seem to get the impression from the article that this guy who spent all this time researching and essentially discovering this long lost tube system is going to get screwed out of its use. The director of Information Technology for the city was quoted as saying that this guy would have the option to bid on the use of this system along with everyone else! Don't you think that he should have the right to use this if he wants, considering he discovered it?

more pneumatic information (1)

randolphstark (450062) | more than 13 years ago | (#240878)

if anyone wants more info on the tubes, you can reach me (neutronmedia is my company name)
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