Hero of Alexandria – Inventor of the first Vending Machine
The evolution of the most common vending machine since it was invented is incredible and the most ancient known vending machine is the work of Hero of Alexandria who was a first century engineer and mathematician. He invented the first coin operated vending machine, an urn which then dispensed holy water when a coin was inserted and the same is described by Hero of Alexandria in his book `Pneumatic’.
Hero was the Da Vinci of his time who came up with ideas for all types of inventions like the pneumatic steam powered system which would open large temple door when a fire would be lit on the altar.
It was said that he had flair in creating various types of special effects which were dramatic. He also set his mind to practical problems like the Greeks who took too much holy water and invented a holy water dispensing machine wherein when a coin was dropped into its slot at the top, it would fall onto a tray on a lever which would pull the stopper out of a bottle of the holy water and drain out of a spout in the front.
The pan or the tray would continue to tilt under the weight of the coin till it would move to the end and the lever would snap back stopping the flow of water. This same system of mechanism was used in modern vending machines later on before electricity came into use.
Dispensed Holy Water in Egyptian temples
The coin operated holy water dispenser, designed by the Greek inventor, Hero, was used in Egyptian temples to dispense water for ritual washing where worshippers would place a coin on the machine to receive holy water to bathe before they could enter the temple.
Towards the end of the day, the slot machine would be refilled with holy water and emptied of the coins that were filled in preparation for the next day worshippers. Hero who lived in Roman ruled Egypt invented many gadgets and also wrote about them. In his book he has described at length on the early vending machine which dispensed holy water on inserting a coin into it.
Hero’s coin operated vending machines was found in temples all over the land which enabled each members to obtain an equal quantity of holy water without the presence of a priest. These machines operated on an open valve system when a coin was inserted into the slot of the vending machine which was rested on a platform.
Hero’s Invention, an inspiration to others
Hero’s invention of the coin operated vending machine inspired the creation of several other vending machines which lead to financial gains to many. It also kick started the vending industry enabling a large number of vending machine operators in making a great income without the need of being physical present at an outlet.
Hero send the ball rolling in 215 BC on inventing the holy water vending machine in Egyptian temples which soon lead to vending machines offering several items like cigars, stamps, and much more. His invention also gave rise to a completely coin operated restaurant, in Philadelphia known as Horn & Hardartwhich was operational in 1902 and stayed on till 1962.