Thursday, May 31, 2012

le bruit de choc

Paris in the 1890s, and a tubiste working in the Poste Pneumatique pulls a lever, cranks a steel door, exchanges cylinders and closes the door again. Sweat forms on his brow as he turns the wheel to create a vacuum and apply compressed air. He pauses to ring the bell so the next station knows of the coming delivery. A tubiste down the line rings his bell when he hears le bruit de choc as the tube arrives at his station.
This section of text, adapted from Molly Wright Steenson's Cabinet article, is filled with sound. The soundscapes of these brass-age pneumatic systems evoke the work involved in sending pneumatic missives underneath the city. These historic sonic delights are however considered pollution in many modern day hospitals, with an increasing call to 'turn the sound down' in clinical work spaces.
Swisslog have responded to this drive with their patent-pending Whisper Receiving System, which minimises noise associated with pneumatic transportation. Recently installed in the positively named Le Bonheur Hospital in America, the system is said to enable employees to concentrate better on the patient care requirements of the hospital. I wonder how the tubistes were ever able to get their work done with all of that cranking, clanging and bell ringing!

Image from Scott Kostolni's Flikrstream.

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