The very first vending machines were invented by the Egyptians, and were located in their temples. For a few coins, they were able to dispense water to the thirsty faithful. Hero Alexandria was the brains behind this invention which was way ahead of its time then. He was a mathematician and engineer, and the year was 215 BC.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that vending machines became commercially available to the general public and went on to house a variety of products from cigarettes to gum to coffee to even books and many other products.
The emergence of the genius
Hero is said to be one who really enjoyed the library and books. He would study other scientists and in particular Ctesibius. Ctesibius was a Greek mathematician who specifically studied pressure and pipes. Hero is also believed to have studied Archimedes, another great scientist who wrote about pressure and displacement.
Many scholars feel that Hero was more than just an admirer of the Greek Mathematician and in fact, was a student. This would perhaps explain how Hero grasped the concept of pressure so well and thus creating the vending machine.
Previous inventions of Hero Alexandria
Hero is listed to be quite the inventor. So much so that history actually lost track in what he invented. Historians and researchers ended up putting a group of inventions from his time and calling them Hero’s.
Most of these gadgets were wind-powered. Before Hero came into the picture, wind-powered devices were nonexistent. It is, therefore, safe to say that he invented wind energy.
But one of his most interesting gadgets was the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of Heron”. This device was believed to change one liquid to another seemingly putting alchemy during that time period to shame. But the truth was even more fascinating. He used air and fluid pressure fitted in a thin pipe to move liquid to different chalices. So when he poured water in one end, the pressure would move the wine in the tube and tap it out in a new cup giving the illusion that the water was turned to wine.
What Led to the creation of this ancient vending machine
Greece and Egyptian were very religious places. The people often visited temples for worship. But it was a tedious exercise as they would line up to receive blessings from the priest.
Hero created a vending machine that was filled with pre-blessed holy water from the priest. The priest was, therefore, to carry out other forms of ministry rather than stay all day listening to people. The masses, on the other hand, did not need to line up anymore.
How it worked
Hero’s mistress pressure came into play again. When someone put a coin in the slot, it would go and displace a platform that would rise. The increased platform would open up and release the holy water for the waiting people. The coin would slowly roll re-establishing the weight balance and hence close the valve.
Further Evolution of the vending machine
From chilled drinks, the evolution of vending machines took an interesting twist in the 1950’s when the machines started selling life insurance at airports in the States. That is how much air transport was not trusted at the time. The policy provided a death cover for the next-of-kin just in case the plane crashed. This went on for almost 20 years when the life insurance vendors were done away with. This was also the time air travel became the safest mode of travel in the world.
Canned sodas made their debut in the 60’s, in the 70’s snacks were introduced to the vending machines. The 80’s saw further inroads as the first frozen food vending machine made its way to the market in 1987. This set a standard that had not been attained before.
What vending machines do today
Today, they are everywhere selling anything and everything. One vending machine in Japan sells one of the most bizarre combinations, whiskey and ladies panties.
The convenience that the vending machine has brought to our lives is unimaginable, though. Coffee breaks are taken in offices, restrooms have condom vending machines, hospitals have soft drink machines the list is endless. It is a convenience galore anywhere you look.