How do modern vending machines know what coins you’ve inserted? Well, according to this fantastic CG animated segment from the Science Channel, current day vending machines make use of a combination of light sensors to accurately measure the size of the coin being dropped in, and electromagnets to determine the metal type of the coin rolling past. Together this information provides the onboard computer with enough information to make a pretty accurate guess as to what coins have been inserted, allowing it to then calculate and distribute change if necessary.
A bonus for anyone who has ever had a fight with a vending machine before, modern machines detect whether or not an item has dropped into the retrieval chute by means of light beams – and if nothing has indeed dropped down, the computer simply tries again! (That would have saved me a LOT of frustration in my university days!)
Related Link: Science Channel
When vending machines work right, then they are a tremendous source of joy and customer satisfaction, particularly when you are working an all-nighter and want something to drink at 2am in the morning and no normal shop is open or close by to the labs.
I favourably remember the trusty old vending machines on the bottom floor of the Computer Science building that served many a snack and beverage to the munchy student during all weird and wonderful hours that we used to find ourselves stuck in the computer labs.
And then with my move to the Commerce faculty, the vending machines at the bottom of Leslie Social Science became my friends and I spent many a coin pilfering their uncountable snacks and drinks. Ah, good times, good times.
When they work that is.
Sometimes the vending machines are so popular that they get emptied almost immediately after being filled and then stay that way for at least a week or two. Or sometimes it is the coin box that gets full and won’t except any new transactions.
And then there is my own personal pet hate: The vending machine that breaks down and doesn’t tell you that it is broken. Take Thursday morning for instance. I feel absolutely kak but decide to drag myself into work anyway. After struggling through the short walk up from my car, I arrive at upper campus in a pool of sweat and decide that I need a drink from the vending machine ASAP. I open my wallet and voila, I have coins to burn!
My first R5 coin gets gratefully accepted by the coin slot, only to disappear with a thunk and fail to register as having been accepted but at the same time NOT appearing in the rejected coin slot. Okay, so now I am pissed off. My next R5 coin is successful, showing up as credit on the machine, as does my follow-up R2 coin which comes to the grand total of R7 credit. Eagerly depressing the Coca Cola button, the machine informs me that the Coke is sold out. No problem. I’ll have something else then. Except that all the drinks I really want are empty! Damn it!
No problem, I’ll just hit the coin return button and try a different vending machine. So I bash the coin return toggle, kick the vending machine and swear a little to make me feel better, but all to no avail. No matter what I do, I’m not getting my money back. So I finally find an option that isn’t sold out, namely a Minute Maid Breakfast Punch juice. Grumbling, I accept the can and kick the machine once more as it fails to return my R1 coin change.
Pissed off that this can of something I really didn’t want in the first place has now cost me R12, I open it, take a swig… and recoil in disgust as I realise that it is one hell of an old can because it has somehow managed to even lose its fizziness! Icky!
*sigh*, guess that is why they always say that change is inevitable… except from a vending machine.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vending_machine
I always love following Japanese culture and inventions, mainly because everyone seems on a mission to outdo one another in terms of craziness and often impracticality. A wonderful entry in the their weird world of wacky comes from Ms Tsukioka, a 29 year old ‘experimental’ fashion designer who proposes that women alone could walk in greater safety by disguising themselves as vending machines (which in case you didn’t know, almost outnumber the amount of people in Japan, selling everything from coffee to used panties).
On the inside of the woman’s skirt is a large sheet of cloth, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine, which can then be lifted up and held in front of the woman who steps to the side of the road now in complete disguise . In fact, the deluxe version of the designer-wear unfolds from a Kimono, complete with four sides for even greater camouflaging.
You’ve got to wonder about the usefulness of this disguise in daylight, but for night time it would be perfect for avoiding creepy old men – unless of course the wearer got a terrible nipple stand and the creepy old man presses the button for a drink.
I’m thinking that while the design won’t catch on in South Africa, the concept may just very well. Just imagine a group of four women magically transformed into a linen taxi bus! – The perfect disguise!
For those of you out there who can’t spot the disguise amongst the real deals, here’s a hint – it is the one with the shoes sticking out at the bottom :P
Aargh! I am so pissed off at this moment. The day really started out great this morning, but it has now deteriorated (rapidly I might add) into a hellhole. First my left eyes contact lens goes the way of the dodo on the way to work, and then after a long walk in the sun up to campus, the bloody vending machine swallows my six bucks. I smacked the thing very hard but then left because I was starting to cause a scene.
And having only this one eye is making me grumpy, I cant see this bloody monitor without squinting and it is only the start of the day!!