The Paris Pneumatique

An interesting post appeared today on Dartblog on the:

Paris Pneumatique mail delivery service, the fastest way to send correspondence up until the arrival of fax machines. Underground high-pressure lines (think of the air-powered tubes that are used today at drive-through bank tellers) covered Paris better than the metro (in the 1930s at the service’s peak there were 240 miles of Pneumatique tubes, mostly in the sewers, vs. 213 miles of metro today), and they shot their torpedo-like carriers across the city far more quickly than any express rider could travel. Delivery was guaranteed between any two points in Paris within two hours.

As recently at the mid-1970s, the Pneumatique system carried millions of pieces of urgent mail, but on March 30, 1984, after 117 years of operation (the first line entered service in 1867), the network was shut down for good — a sad ending for a technology that had been immortalized in François Truffaut’s 1968 film Baisers Volés (Stolen Kisses).

The technology that killed the Pneu, the fax machine — remember them? — lasted barely 25 years.

Another redundant French technology: the Minitel, a “Videotex online service accessible through telephone lines, considered one of the world’s most successful pre-World Wide Web online services.” My French host mother had one when I studied in France in 1992. I was impressed. You could look up phone numbers, order train tickets, and buy things! The service was discontinued in 2012 in the face of the Internet as we know it today.