Sure, hot-beverage dispensers are still around, but when was the last time you had a vending machine serve you up a soda pop in a paper cup? They once ruled hospital, office and school cafeterias, serving up a floor show with your beverage. You inserted your change, listened to the mysterious clunking and whirring, and the machine spat out a cup. If you were lucky, it fell out right-side up and managed to teeter to its feet before things really got fun. Your chosen liquid issued forth, and you slid open a small door and took delivery of a wet, eight-ounce miracle.
If you weren’t lucky, you got no cup, and were treated to the sight of your drink pouring down the service panel’s small drain. If you were creatively unlucky, your cup popped out upside-down. Really, putting money into one of these was like feeding the slots. You might get something, or you might get nothin’ and like it.
Still, there was something Jetsonsy about these drink dispensers, something magical about how they mixed the syrup and the soda water at your request, about the whole whizz and purr of it all. We never got the food replicator promised us by “Star Trek,” but if this bit of sci-fi wasn’t worth an occasional wasted quarter, we don’t know what was.