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History of Vending Machines

It is widely accepted that the vending machine was first developed way back in the 1st century AD, by a Greek mathematician known as: Hero, or Hero of Alexandria (and later Heron/Heron of…). This vending machine was created to distribute holy water from temples in Egypt. It is believed the mechanics of this vending machine involved a valve which opened and released holy water when a lever was activated by a coin.

However, this particular vending machine engineer was somewhat before his time. Subsequent records of vending machine manufacture appear to be non-existent until the early 18th century, when English colonies (and also later that century, British-American colonies) used simple coin-activated ‘honour boxes’ to sell tobacco and snuff (snuff: n. inhaled or ‘smokeless’ tobacco); though this first use of modern vending machines seems debatable.

Alternative sources credit an English publisher and bookshop owner named Richard Carlisle with the first commercial vending machine (which – unsurprisingly – was used to vend books); whereas it is also documented that coin-operated vending machines to dispense postcards were introduced into London, England around the same time (during the early 1880s).

The United States were apparently introduced to vending machines courtesy of the Thomas Adams Gum Company in 1888, who installed ‘Tutti-Fruitti’ chewing gum vending machines in the subways of New York City.

In 1926 things changed for vending machines; no longer were they restricted to [predominately] retailing gum and candy – that year saw the invention of the cigarette vending machine, by an American named William Rowe. In the decades which followed, this would act as a catalyst for the vending of higher value goods.

Soft drink and ‘nickel-candy’ machines sprung up in the 1920s and 30s, by which time the automatic vending machine had truly established its place in society, and was well on its way to becoming the sophisticated retail solutions we know today. Recent advances in technology have dramatically improved almost every aspect of vending machines.

The vending machines of today offer increased security, economy and capacity; versatile payment options, and extremely diverse product selections. Not only this, some advanced machines utilise impressive stock management and machine auditing systems.

Vending machines have been part of our world for thousands of years, and will no doubt carry on populating our streets and buildings for thousands of years to come. As technology progresses and innovations are developed, vending machines will continue to evolve accordingly and provide interesting new ways to buy, sell, promote and advertise.

And of course, Intelligent Vending Ltd will be there every step of the way!

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