In the Industrial Era communications, navigation, and transportation systems existed side by side in an interdependent network. These technologies as well as the profound philosophical, theological, and social shifts that ushered them in figure prominently in this story. The links here are meant to give some historic context for these histories and other relevant information.


There really was a pneumatic system for the coordination of time! In the story, the Hungry Ghost works in the Bureau of Time – in the mid 1880's in Paris there was an institution that fulfilled this function city-wide called Le Bureau des Longitudes. Here is the Wiki entry for this institution – which survives to this day. The Bureau des Longitudes in France still meets to discuss issues of astronomy

The control room at the Rue du Telegraphe in Paris, where air was pumped through an underground network of pipes to provide a mechanism to coordinate time across Paris. People, trains – all facets of society relied on this system, which in turn relied on a nearby Observatory for its accuracy. Image is from Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps Empires of Time by Peter Galison, and is attributed to the Compagnie General des Horloges Pneumatiques.

From The telegraph did, as the mail had not been able to do, tie the nation together. The telegraph not only increased the speed of communication, and lowered its cost, but it inter-connected the people of the country via a web, or internet, that linked people with each other not only along predetermined routes, but along any route that might spontaneously arise.

On similarities between the 1860s and 1990s between the Railroad industry and the internet economy

Tracing the Telegraph/Train network, another wiki entry describes perhaps the world'sfirst live mass-media event, the hammers and spike were wired to the telegraph line, so that each hammerstroke would be heard as a click at telegraph stations nationwide

A nice description of a point in time when steam power, pneumatic power, and electrical power all co-existed.

From William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (26 June 1824–17 December 1907) was a mathematical physicist who did important work in thermodynamics. Thomson became a man of public note in connection with the laying of the first transatlantic telegraph cable. This cable was laid for the purpose of establishing an accurate global time standard, greater accuracy in navigation, and more effective colonialisation. It also contributed to coordination of train schedules and tracks across continents.

The navigational and character icons developed for The Interpretive Engine are adopted directly from the Hobo Alphabet, used during the depression by itinerant travellers to make sites of significance. These included sources for food, water, and shelter. The Hobo Alphabet was a secret code used to mark sites of use to fellow travellers. Chris McMullin has a chart of the Hobo Alphabet on his website. There is a nice description of how this code functioned on the website And a wonderful reminiscence about travelling by rail in the early part of the 1900's in the U.S.


Online Archive of California – search the photo archive.

An award-winning website on Fresno historic architecture

Someone's personal homage to Fresno, in photos, on Flickr.


Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps. Empires of Time by Peter Galison tells the fascinating tale of the endeavor to coordinate time across the world. This book is now available in paperback for as little as $2.50 used.



A pneumatic engine, of the variety that would have been used to power mail systems and small rail networks relying on air pressure. Illustration by Naomi Spellman, based on an engraving from 1885.