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Guest Feature Article by Vending One: When Were Vending Machines Invented?

Today, you are likely to see a vending machine in any physical store that you enter. Whether it’s the supermarket or a local restaurant, there’s always a designated vending machine that’s meant to serve you whenever you feel like buying. You actually don’t have to worry about the time of shopping or who’ll serve you as vending machines have you covered. From foods and beverages to cigarettes and newspapers, there’s virtually a vending machine for everything.

You just need to insert money or a credit card and the vending machine will automatically sell to you. Because of this, they are often referred to as automatic retailers. But, as you continue to marvel at these masterpieces, do you really know when the machines were invented? We try to break down the history of the machines for you so as you can understand their origin much better.

The First-Ever Vending Machine Invention (215 BC)

The first vending machine dates back in Ancient Greek in 215 BC. It was a piece of work by mathematician Hero of Alexandria. The idea behind the invention is very interesting. You were required to feed the machine with coins so as it can give you ‘holy water’. Once you insert a coin into it, it would fall on an empty pan that was linked to a lever. So, the weight of the inserted coin will pull the attached lever resulting in the flow of ‘holy water’. The water was called ‘holy’ because it was tantamount to a ‘Greek god’. Later in 1615, the tobacco vending machine was invented in the UK. The machine was a portable one.

The First Modern Vending Machine (the 1880s)

The first-ever commercial (coin-operated) automatic retailer was invented in London early in 1880. The whole idea was to help busy and money-hungry entrepreneurs sell quickly and in bulk. The automatic retailer was designed to dispense postcards. The man behind the idea was Percival Everitt. This machine not only became an important dispensing point at the post offices but also at the railway stations. Later, the vending machine would dispense envelopes and notepapers in addition to postcards.

In 1893, the first vending machine company was founded in England. The company going by the name Sweetmeat Delivery was established to facilitate installation as well as maintenance of commercial vending machines. In 8893, a German entrepreneur who was selling chocolate set up his own company for building vending machines for chocolate dispensing. The machine will later be used to dispense soaps and matches.

The First-Ever Vending Machine in the US (1888)

The US is never left behind when it comes to inventions. Though the first modern vending machine was invented outside the US in the early 1880s, a similar design was built in the US in 1888. The company responsible was Thomas Adams Gums. The vending machine was meant to sell fruity gums in New York City, especially around the railway area. In 1887, the company added a gaming incentive to their invention. This prompted people to refer to the machine as a ‘trade stimulator’ as it encourages more people to buy the gums.

The Evolution of the Vending Machine

So much has changed since the first invention of the vending machine. So many vending machines companies have been founded over the years. So, technology has vastly changed. Here’s a breakdown of the evolution:

  • 1890 – The First Vending Machine for Drinks

From dispensing postcards and gums came vending machines for beverages. At around 1930, the first vending machine for dispensing sodas was invented. The only available dispensed soda drinks at the time were Pepsi and Coke. As expected, Coca Cola made the way for Pepsi. In 1946, the vending machine for dispensing coffee was invented for institutions. Later on, vending machines for canned soda were invented. The machines were also used to dispense water in restaurants and supermarkets. Surprisingly, a majority of the earlier designs are still in operation to date.

  • 1926 – The First Vending Machine for Cigarettes

The need to have a quick way of selling cigarettes prompted American inventor and innovator William Rowe to come up with the first vending machine for dispensing cigarettes. However, the invention has been marred with concerns about underage buyers and this messed up their popularity. Actually, they are more popular in Japan and Europe as opposed to the US as the countries have better ways to ensure age verification before selling.

  • 1950 – The First Vending Machine for Life Insurance

In 1950, American airports saw the need to sell life insurance via automatic selling points. So, they started using vending machines to sell policies to travelers that would assure them death coverage in case their flight crashed. Unfortunately, these machines were short-lived. They barely lasted two decades.

  • 1950 – The First Vending Machine for Schools

As you already know, the first coin-operated vending machine was invented in the 1880s. However, the machine was only redesigned for school use in 1950. This is the year that students and teachers would buy drinks and candies from automatic retailers. However, there were and still, are restrictions pertaining to what sugary consumables should be dispensed in schools and which ones shouldn’t.

  • 1965 – The First Vending Machine to Accept Paper Bills

Early in 1965, a man by the name John Greenwick decided to build a vending machine that uses paper bills instead of coins. This was a great shift from the original coin-operated vending machine. Now, people don’t have to carry coins anymore because of this invention.

  • 1972 – The First Vending Machine for Snacks

In 1972, a company by the name Polyvend saw the need to dispense snacks. So, they invented the first glass-front vending machine for shops. The machine would entice kids and adults with candy cravings to grab a bite. Such designs are quite popular around the shopping malls and in the streets.

  • 1987 – The First Vending Machine for Frozen Foods

The invention of vending machines for beverages and snacks opened the door for options that dispense frozen foods. Actually, the manufacturer saw the need to hold foods within the vending machine for long without risking them going bad. So, 1987 saw the origin of some of the world’s best vending machines for frozen food products.

Closing Thought:

The vending machines have come a long way and there is no doubt about it. From using coins to now using credit cards, it has been a story for the ages. These automatic retailers make things really interesting for the modern consumer. They not only get to save time but labor too. They are truly the future of the retail business.



Thank you to Vending One for allowing us use of such an informative article

Follow the link to see more articles by Vending One

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Pockets full of Posy’s

Automated retail is currently coming in leaps and bounds, with more and more products on the market being available from vending machines and kiosks. Intelligent Vending like to keep abreast of new developments and pass any cool and unusual tech-awareness on to the masses. Vending International recently reported that a British company have fresh, hand tied bouquets of flowers available at any time of the day or night. The automated florist in Greater London is installed with a dry-cooling system providing the specific climate that the flowers need, and each unit is installed with an intuitive touchscreen and software system. The vending machine itself is also very aesthetically pleasing. This definitely puts a new slant on ‘stopping to smell the roses.’ Click on the link for the full informative article by Vending International.

Transparent Touch Screen Vending Machines

We would like to introduce a new concept – transparent touch screen display vending machines. Transparent touchscreen displays are an impressive and exciting new technology with thousands of potential applications. Combine a sleek transparent display with touchscreen interactivity and the result is technology so impressive it could have been pulled straight out of a science fiction film.

For vending machines, the integration of transparent touch displays offers numerous advantages. Not only can customers see the actual products in the machines – just as with traditional glass-fronted machines – all the enhancements a high definition digital display can provide are also at the operators disposal. This could include video promotions of products and services; providing highly detailed information about the products for sale; or perhaps even a novel game to help attract and entice passers-by to the machine.

Although still very much in its infancy, this is a technology you can expect to see a lot more of in the near future. A video of a transparent touchscreen vending machine in action can be seen on our website at the following link:

If you have a few moments, we would very much like to hear your thoughts and opinions on this new technology. You can give us your feedback by submitting the form found at the bottom of the link provided above. There are only a few simple questions, and your answers may help us to learn of key ideas and features which would improve the functionality of these machines. It is entirely possible that your ideas could find their way in to the next incarnation of these machines!

New 5p and 10p Coins Delayed – Again

Last year, the government announced plans to introduce new 5p and 10p coins manufactured from alternative, cheaper materials. The motivation – as ever – is financial; and while this may save the government some money(an estimated £10 million per year), it will cost the vending machine industry significantly more.

The new coins will be 0.2mm thicker than the current coins in circulation, and will also be made from nickel-plated stainless steel, as opposed to the presently used nickel and copper alloy (cupro-nickel). This means they will not be compatible with existing vending machine coin mechanisms.

To continue to operate effectively, all vending machines, change machines, parking meters and anything else which accepts coins will need to be fitted with new, updated coin mechanisms.

The cost of this to the vending industry alone has been estimated at £43 million. For the whole coin industry, this estimate increases to £100 million.

Previously, the Automatic Vending Association (AVA) successfully appealed against these plans on the basis that vending operators would need more time to prepare for the change and update their coin mechanisms accordingly.

The introduction date for the new coins was first moved to January 2011. Following this, another successful appeal pushed the date back again, to April 2011. Last March, the AVA won a third delay, with the planned introduction date now pencilled in for January 2012.

Egg Vending Machine

German animal rights group NOAH recently set up an ‘egg vending machine‘ in a busy town centre to try and promote awareness of the poor conditions suffered by ‘battery farmed’ chickens. The vending machine contained sixteen live chickens in a compartmentalised version of a typical snack vending machine, with a sticker reading ‘Egg Machine’ affixed across the top in large red letters.

Although the vending machine looks realistic, it doesn’t actually dispense eggs. Instead, the machine dispenses free shopping cart tokens with “CHECK THE EGG” branding. Also printed on the tokens is a quick guide to the country’s egg labelling system. This consists of the numbers 0 to 3 with respective farming methods (0 = organic, 1 = free range, 2 = deep-litter and 3 = cage).

The hope is that this will act as a reminder and handy reference for shoppers when buying eggs, which must all have this number on to show their origin.

NOAH is similar to the UK animal rights group PETA. More information on the group, including pictures and videos of their egg vending machine can be seen on NOAH’s website.

Social Media Vending Machines

Earlier this month, Pepsi revealed a prototype of a ‘social media vending machine’. The social media aspect of the vending machine is a feature which allows customers to send drinks voucher codes to their friends, which can then be redeemed on other similar vending machines.

The vending machine is operated with a touch-screen, which initially presents three options to the user. One of these options is ‘Gift or Redeem a Drink’. Once a drink has been selected, an optional video message can be recorded and sent to a friend’s mobile phone, together with a text message which includes a code that can be entered in to any other ‘Pepsi Social Vending Unit’.

Some social media experts have received the concept well; suggesting that it has been long overdue. However, others have voiced concerns over privacy issues.

The vending machine also provides nutritional information for the products, which should help to support the USA’s campaign to improve dietary habits.

Whether or not this particular vending machine will take off is yet to be seen, but it may be a glimpse of the vending machines of the future. It is certainly not likely to be the final attempt at integrating the phenomenon of social media to increase vending machine sales.

For those who are interested, there is a YouTube video of the social media vending machine’s interface in action.

Vending Machine Swallows Boy

Last Sunday, fire-fighters had to rescue a 9 year old boy from a vending machine in Wisconsin, USA.

The vending machine was a typical claw machine, commonly found in amusement arcades. For those who are unfamiliar with the machines, the aim is to try and manipulate a grabbing arm to pick up prizes and drop them down a chute.

The usual trick is to accurately position the arm over a well positioned item, so it doesn’t prematurely slip and drop from the notoriously feeble grip of the claw, back to the pile of prizes below.

However, in this instance the boy decided not to bother actually playing the machine, but instead to just go straight to the prizes – by crawling inside the machine through the 1 x 1 foot prize collection door.

It is unclear exactly how the boy managed such an act of contortion, as he was not in view of his parents at the time, but it didn’t seem to cause him any discomfort. Sun Prairie Fire Department’s Lt. Dan Cotter was quoted:

“We actually tried to get his attention a few times because he was playing. So I mean he was happy to be in there, but I don’t think mom and dad were too happy”

The story had a happy ending though. Fire-fighters said they were quickly able to get the child out of the vending machine, despite a lack of training for such an unusual event.

There was further good news for the boy, who was reportedly allowed to take two toys home with him at the end of the ordeal – which is almost certainly more of a reward than most receive from such vending machines.

Wine Vending Machines en France

The French are well known for their love of wine. Back in 2008, wine enthusiast Astrid Terzian developed the idea of wine vending machines (or ‘distributeurs automatiques de vin’) for use in French supermarkets. The vending machines store a large quantity of wine (up to 1000 litres), which can be dispensed – or pumped – in to containers supplied by the consumer.

The motivations behind the concept are both environmental and economical. By removing the need for individually packaged bottles, wine can be transported more efficiently and cost-effectively. This of course helps to bring costs down – and combined with the fact that consumers use their own packaging; the carbon footprint which results from traditional wine distribution processes is significantly reduced. The savings are passed on to the consumer too, with a litre of wine said to cost as little as around 1.5 Euros.

While some connoisseurs may turn their noses up at the idea of DIY wine storage, it doesn’t appear as if it will see the end of the concept. Apparently there are eight supermarkets in France which have adopted the vending machines so far, and there are rumours the machines will hit the USA in the next year. Others have reported the existence of these vending machines in Quebec, Canada for some time too.

This method differs somewhat to the wine vending machines recently incorporated in Pennsylvania (see our blog post on this: Wine Vending Machines) which dispense full bottles, but in a way which complies with the strict laws governing the sale of alcohol in the heavily controlled state. It is unclear how (or if) the French style wine vending machines attempt to restrict the sale of alcohol to underage users.

ATM Cash Machine Inventor John Shepherd-Barron Dies Aged 84

The inventor of the very first ATM ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cash machine, John Shepherd-Barron, died in an Inverness hospital last Saturday, at the age of 84.

After arriving late to the bank one day in 1965 and finding it closed, Mr. Shepherd-Barron was motivated to try and come up with a convenient solution for withdrawing money at any time. Inspiration was reportedly drawn from snack/chocolate vending machines, and following a chance discussion with the head of Barclays Bank in 1967, the first ATM was born. The machine was located at a branch in Enfield, London.

The first ATMs were slightly different to those we are familiar with now; they operated using special cheques matched against a PIN number, rather than with the plastic cash cards they have since evolved to accept.

John Shepherd-Barron neither patented nor made any money from his invention; however, he was made an OBE in 2005 for his services to banking and recognised with a lifetime achievement award from the ATM Industry Association.

Developments in the Vending industry

Modern vending offers the same benefits as it always has. Vending machines can offer exceptional service to staff and visitors 24 hours a day and 7 days per week, even when normal retail outlets are closed. For businesses, vending also offers a way to extend opening hours, and generate additional profits; they are also an excellent means of providing refreshments for staff and, if pricing is effective, a tangible reflection that management values its workforce.

Vending machines can also save down time by avoiding the need for staff to travel off site at lunch time, or visit other parts of the factory to replenish stock or components for production processes.

In commercial and industrial settings, vending machines are also increasingly being used to control the allocation of products for cost/regulatory purposes, or to reduce pilfering and on site wastage. To support such activity, machine control systems have become very sophisticated and are now able to remotely stock-take, monitor usage, or prevent unauthorised access.

Sophisticated payment and operating systems are increasingly being incorporated into vending machines. Note and card payment systems are now fairly common, and the current move is towards contactless and NFC (Near Field Communication) payment systems using a mobile phone or card to allow payment by merely ‘swiping or waving’ in front of the reader on the vending machine. Touch screen and intelligent technology are also becoming available. These elements can expand vending machines beyond simple selling to advertising, brand promotion, and more ‘interactive’ engagement of the purchaser with the machine. Some vending machines are so smart they even recognise the characteristics of the person in front of the machine, e.g. gender, to determine what information/advertising is presented on the display screen to them.

All of the above coming soon to a vending machine near you – some exciting times ahead with Intelligent Vending Ltd!!

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