The first modern coin-operated vending machines popped up at rail stations and post offices in the 1880s, and sold postcards, envelopes, and note paper. By 1893, the concept had spread to Germany, where cigarettes, chocolate, chewing gum, and soap were being dispensed. Around the world today -- using machines that require a lot more than a single coin -- you can buy just about anything, 24 hours a day, from gold bullion in Dubai and live crabs in China, to tasty treats such as baguettes in France, pizza in Italy, and French fries in the Netherlands and Australia.
You can get anything you want:
- In recent years, vending machines have become super-sized thanks to Carvana, a company that sells cars online. Their multi-story buildings found across America let you dial up your next set of wheels.
- The very first vending machine was conceived by the ancient engineer/mathematician Hero of Alexandria, who devised a way to dispense a stream of holy water when a believer inserted a coin.
- Some items may not be suitable for vending. After concerns related to underage drinking, automated sales of beer in Japan dropped by 50 percent -- even after the addition of driver’s license scanners.