Even though technological solutions of the past always seem to make us smile condescendingly, when compared to systems nowadays, you have to recognize their craftiness. In some cases you actually need to bend before its visionary spirit and realization ability; in some cases, even, its effectiveness and functionality didn't decrease with time. In the latter category, the pneumatic transport system, also known as the Lamson tube, is included.
The system basicly consists of a network of pressurized tubes where small cylindrical capsules, moved by vacum or by compressed air, circulate. Theoretically, almost anything can be moved through this system, depending on the capsule's dimension and the capacity of the tube network. The invention of this concept is credited to the Scotish engineer Willian Murdoch, in the beginning of the 19th century, and was immediately developed for various uses.
From the beginning, American William Stickney Lamson was one of its first manufacturers and developers, in such a way that his name would be forever connected to this system. The first infrastructures were destined for the postal service, transporting letters and packages, and soon revealed to be very effective. During the second half of the 19th century, the British postal services actually had an extensive network of pneumatic postal transportation in London and the same happened in severall European cities, such as Paris. In Prague, a network of 60 km of tubes, aproximately, worked until a few years ago.
The Lamson Tube was also used in stores, factories, banks and hospitals, due to its effectiveness and speed. The more evolved systems actually projected capsules at a speed of 10 metres per second! In the USA it soared and was also installed in government and financial buildings, transporting money and other valuables. Who doesn't remember watching, in old movies, in a shop or store, the bended tubes emerging from the counters where clients made their payments and collected their change through a cylindrical capsule? Nostalgic and fascinating.
The most recent technologies weren't able to render this simple and ingenious invention, still at use today, obsolete. Nowadays, the Lamson company still exists and prospers.