vending machine

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vending machine

vending machine, coin-operated, automatic device for selling goods. Many vending machines are capable of making change, and some of the more sophisticated ones accept paper money or credit cards. The first vending machine was invented by Richard Carlisle, English publisher and bookshop owner, for selling books. Until 1926 vending machines were restricted chiefly to selling penny gum and candy. In that year the invention of a cigarette-vending machine by William Rowe, an American, started a trend toward selling higher-priced merchandise. Soft drink and nickel-candy machines followed in the 1920s and 30s. Today vending machines sell a wide variety of items, e.g., milk, sandwiches, soap, and newspapers. Operators maintain and service machines and pay rent, usually a commission on sales, to the owners of the location sites. Some luncheonettes consist entirely of unattended vending machines.


See study by R. D. Burkett (1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vending Machine


a device for dispensing (and sometimes preparing) merchandise after receiving money or other means of payment from the purchaser.

Vending machines, which independently carry out all the work and auxiliary processes and movements, are used for selling mass low-cost goods of small size, such as candy, tobacco goods, beverages, and dairy products. Some vending machines are semiautomatic, requiring the purchaser, after depositing the coin, to press a button or pull a lever to release the merchandise.

The first description of automatic devices, used in temples for the sale of “holy” water and ablutions, is found in Heron of Alexandria’s Pneumática (first century A.D). At the beginning of the 17th century, there were devices in England for the sale of tobacco; in 1851 beverage-selling devices were demonstrated at the Great Exhibition in London. The first patents for vending machines were granted in the United States in 1886, and in 1887 the first commercial firm for the sale of goods by vending machines was established in Great Britain. In the USSR, series production of vending machines was begun in 1956.

Vending machines are divided into batching devices, which dispense liquid and loose products, and automatic devices for the sale of individually packaged goods. There are various types of single-section and multisection vending machines, for example, freestanding vending machines, used separately, wall vending machines, used as part of a group unit, multiproduct vending machines with display windows, and outdoor, kiosk-like, vending machines.

The basic assemblies of a vending machine include the loading and transporting device, the batcher (or device for separating a single item from the remaining items), the delivery mechanism, and the coin mechanism. Automatic equipment for the sale of carbonated beverages and coffee is equipped with saturators and mixers for preparing them. Vending machines for the sale of cold beverages and of highly perishable and frozen products are equipped with refrigeration units, and those for the sale of hot beverages and dishes, with heating elements.

The coins or other means of payment deposited by the purchaser into the vending machine slot drop into a coin mechanism, where their authenticity is tested. Upon correct payment, the coin mechanism signals the servomechanisms to release the merchandise.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

vending machine

a machine that automatically dispenses consumer goods such as cigarettes, food, or petrol, when money is inserted
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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