Thursday, June 09, 2005

pneumatic post - technological dead-end

The Pneumatic Post of Paris

Prague Pneumatic Post

I haven't yet found any reference to any pneumatic post networks in Sydney, although seems there were some pneumatic systems installed for getting cash from tills to the back office.

Pneumatic tubes also feature in 1984 and Brazil (which seems to be heavily influenced by 1984). One of the intriguing things about Orwell's vision of the future is that it was created in 1948, just before the great leap forward in to the information age. Orwell knew that information was important to control, but he didn't seperate information from the physical medium that information was transmitted on. So, for example, when the past is changed, that means pulping and reprinting yesterday's newspapers.

But 1948 was also the year that Shannon published his paper on A Mathematical Theory of Communication.

Even though Orwell would have been aware of the individual technologies that combine to make faxes and email possible (i.e. computers, telephones, television), it needed Shannon popularising the idea that pretty much any information can be encoded as numbers, for people to realise how easily those numbers (aka binary digits, aka bits), and thus the information being encoded, can be stored, transmitted, and modified. So in the future he extropolates from 1948, technology has gotten better at moving around the atoms that information is stored on (e.g. via pneumatic tubes), whereas if he'd been writing a decade later, he would have seen that altering information doesn't really require doing anything with atoms at all. It's all about changing magnetic fields on hard disk platters now.


At 10:35 PM, Blogger Jonno said...

William Gibson : The Road to Oceania


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