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Service with a smile is a wonderful thing of course, but how often have you felt apologetic for daring to express a desire to purchase a drink at a café presided over by a bored teenager, or  inwardly deflated when confronted by a supercilious barista? It can happen at supermarkets too. You try and avoid the notorious harridan's till lest the scowling and tutting and curt demands for payment push you over the edge. It's cases like these, rather than a need for speed, which have really made the concept of self service so popular! This is where vending machines win the day every time.

Greek mathematician and engineer, Hero, is credited with inventing the very first vending machine, but commercial coin operated vending machines didn't really come into their own until the 1880s, when Victorian society was at the cutting edge of technological development. City life had expanded rapidly as a result of the Industrial Revolution and the railways had become widespread. Railway stations were a fertile ground for the introduction and growth of vending machine culture. These machines sold, not only train tickets, but also cigarettes, matches, sweets, chocolate, postcards and books. They were built to last from cast iron and yet ironically few have survived because of their scrap metal value. The war effort in particular sealed the fate of many.

Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company of Southwark Street in London and the Postcard Automatic Supply Company were behind the development and production of early machines that provided companies like Cadbury and Nestlé with an alternative means of reaching the masses. Nevertheless, whilst the big names in chocolate have endured, those Victorian vending machine companies have long since bitten the dust.

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