Originally published 08/14/2013
Stephen Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, is a contributor to the Ticker. Follow him on TwitterAh, the “hyperloop.” Elon Musk, whose track record as a technological visionary is unimpeachable, has released details of his plan for a futuristic system of transport. The basic idea is to use air pressure to shoot people-carrying pods through tubes at speeds of up to 760 miles per hour.With all due respect to Mr. Musk, the idea isn’t new. This has been pointed out by some commentators, who have noted that in 1972 Rand Corporation researcher R. M. Salter released a proposal to ferry passengers from New York to Los Angles in a mere 21 minutes, or 14 minutes less than the hyperloop would take to send them from Los Angeles to San Francisco. But at its heart, Musk’s project is even more old school: It owes most of its inspiration to ideas that have been around for two hundred years.