From Holy Water to iPads: Vending’s 2000 Year Timeline

From Holy Water to iPads: Vending’s 2000 Year Timeline

We’re all familiar with the modern face of vending, with sophisticated currency or card operated systems dispensing consumer favourites such as snacks, beverages, alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets at the push of a button.

But did you know that vending is a people-pleaser dating back to first century AD Greece, over 2000 years ago?

The Hero of Vending
We owe the first known vending system to the engineer and mathematician, Hero (also known as Heron) of Alexandria. His coin-operated Holy Water Dispenser was an ingenious contraption that allowed a measure of water to flow out for ritual washing in Egyptian temples.

17th Century England:
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Brass 1615: Our famed pub culture started early and was a hotbed of vending with portable, coin-operated brass machines dispensing tobacco. It seems vending had begun to cater for more secular needs than those irrigated by Hero’s Holy Water.

19th Century England: Vending Makes the Media
1822: Vending diversified further with the likes of English bookseller, Richard Carlile, and his newspaper dispensing machine. The sole purpose of this was to peddle banned works – blasphemous writings that could be purchased without risk to the seller. 1867: Stamp vending systems were introduced by Simeon Denham and the first fully automatic vending machine. 1883: Percival Everitt was responsible for the first postcard vending machine.

The First Vending Company
1887 saw the Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company established in Southwark Street, London. The company was responsible for handling the installation and maintenance of vending machines.

America Keeps It Sweet
1888: The first vending machines arrived in the USA, thanks to the Thomas Adams Gum Company and their Tutti-Frutti gum machines, located on the elevated subway platforms in New York City.

France First for Alcohol
1890: The first beverage vending machine was opened in Paris, with a civilised range of of beer, wine and liquor.

The First Automat
1902: The Horn & Hardart opened in Philadelphia, the world’s first nickel-operated, fast food ‘automat’. Its 60-year life was largely built on cash-strapped members of society such as aspiring actors and songwriters.

1907: America’s round, candy-coated gumball and gumball vending machines arrived, opening the floodgates to products that could be purchased through vending machines.

Early 1920s
The first automatic vending machines dispensed sodas into cups. Beverages are still king of the vending scene!

Ciggies On Tap 1926: We have American inventor, William Rowe to thank for the arrival of the cigarette vending machine. However, its hold on the US populace was undermined by concerns over underage buyers. Some counties circumvented the problem by requiring age verification such as a driving licence or bank card to be inserted before purchase. Cigarette dispensing machines are still common in Germany, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic and Japan.

Japan: Land of the Rising Vending Machine
Renowned for its technological innovation and excellence, not to mention its fast-paced city living, Japan has the highest per capita rate of vending machines in the world. Whatever you want, there’s a vending machine that sells it, from fresh fruit, vegetables and hot foods to batteries, flowers, clothing and national favourites such as sake and sushi.

China: A Chilling Development?
The oddest of vending systems can be found on a street in Hangzhou, the capital of east China’s Zhejiang province. It sells live crabs, chilled, but very much alive, and sold for between 20 and 60 yuan (c. £2 and £6.20, depending on size).

What’s Next for Vending?
There’s a whole raft of new-generation vending machines pandering to our every consumer whim, with techno-features such as biometric payment, touchscreens, digital downloads, wireless communications, solar power, and hyper-efficiency. On offer is much more than the standard range of snack foods (which shows no sign of losing popularity). Wine’s big on the vending scene (although 1890 Paris was ahead of its time with this one), plus consumer electronics such as iPads and mobile phones, and even medication.

What’s Next for Bettavend?
Always arms-wide to space-age vending systems, our Coffee to Go concept will soon be available. Delivering an immediate, authentic coffee-shop experience, it kicks-out kettles and long queues in coffee shops, providing supreme hot and cold beverages (yes, even milkshakes – another vending first) via a 21” touchscreen, with HD promotional/informative videos streaming while refreshment is dispensed.

So watch this space!

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