Vending machines have quite a history. You wouldn't think so, but they go way back...back to ancient times. Of course, the vending machines installed in our workplaces are rather different from those created centuries ago. But the concept of selling something through a device that takes some form of currency is nothing new.
The First Known Vending Machines
It all started with an Ancient Greek mathematician and engineer by the name Hero of Alexandria. His invention took coins and dispensed holy water. Once you put the coin into the machine, it would drop into a pan that was attached to a lever. The weight of the coin in the pan would pull on the lever, releasing a flow of water worthy of a Greek god. Thus, the first vending machine was created.
Fast forward about sixteen centuries later, and you find the next form of vending machines in England. These devices were made of brass and sold tobacco in taverns during the 17th Century. Then in 1822, Richard Carlile, an English bookseller, created a vending machine that sold banned books.
It wasn't until the 1880s that the modern coin-operated machine as we know it was created. Invented by Percival Everitt, the equipment sold postcards, envelopes, and notepaper and was mainly installed at post offices and train stations. During that same time period, the Thomas Adams Gum Company introduced the first vending machine in the United States. They were installed on subway platforms in New York City and sold Tutti-Frutti gum. Gumball machines were introduced a few years later, in 1907.
The First Drink Vending Machines
In the early 1900s, there were beverage machines that dispensed sodas into cups. It wasn't until 1937 that vending machines started dispensing bottled drinks. Coca-Cola was the first to jump on the opportunity and began selling their iconic bottles through vending machines created by two companies, Vendolator and Vendo. (The two vending companies merged in 1956.) Pepsi soon followed suit, and ever since, vending machine manufacturers have continued to create equipment that changes with technology.
Selling More Than Soda and Snacks
In the mid 2000s, vending companies began installing credit card readers on equipment. This allowed for higher priced items to be sold through vending machines. Sundries (items like over the counter drugs, tissues, laundry items) became popular to sell through automatic equipment, especially in hotel vending machines. Other products, like fishing line and books, are now sold in vending machines. In fact, there are all sorts of odd items sold in vending machines around the world.
The Future of Vending Machines
Vending is now a multi-billion dollar industry. With the rise of Apple Pay, Android Pay, and other mobile options for vending machines, vending companies are hoping to see an increase in sales. Most recently, Coca-Cola has introduced a new app that uses Artificial Intelligence to purchase more than one product at a time from vending machines. If truly successful, it will be interesting to see its effect on the industry in the future.