Elon Musk's proposal for whisking people from point A to point B via pneumatic tubes isn't as revolutionary as you'd think. In fact, a New Yorker built a working prototype in 1867 that apparently thousands of people tried. Below is an excerpt from a blog post that looks at the various uses of pneumatic tubes in the 19th century and here's a link to the Bloomberg article about the working prototype:

Interestingly, a pneumatic tube system in London ended up playing a crucial role during the telegraphy era: Undersea signals originating from the US and making it into the UK didn’t have enough oomph left to make it into noisy London, so the telegraphs were printed out on paper and sent into London via the pneumatic tube system. In addition, like with Paris’ extensive system, there were local tube stations in many neighborhoods into which you placed your cylinder. That cylinder could carry messages of course, but it could also carry small physical items as well, including food and even, according to some recorded cases, proposals plus engagement rings. Kind of like a primitive Amazon Prime operating atop of a steampunk Internet system that could deliver physical items!

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