Back in the 1980s, Coca-Cola startled people who just wanted to buy a soda by greeting them with, “Hi! I’m a talking vending machine!” The machine also reminded people to take their change, but that was the extent of its smarts. In fact, that machine told everyone to take their change, whether they were actually getting any change or not.
Around the same time, Carnegie Mellon University students Mike Kazar, David Nichols, John Zsarnay and Ivor Durham hooked their departmental soda machine up to the internet to get word on the stock and how cold it was.
This was needed because the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Department Coke machine was special. It sold soda for about a dime less than other vending machines in the area, and it reputedly had the highest volume of sales in Pittsburgh, according to its webpage. It was stocked by grad students, so there wasn’t the kind of reliable stock of soda you might expect from a machine serviced by the Coca-Cola company.
Possibly out of frustration at having to walk all the way over to the machine only to find a couple of warm bottles of Coke and no cold ones, the students listed above installed sensors to determine whether the slots in the machine were empty or filled. They set timers that assumed that a bottle of Coke would be cold if it had been in the vending machine for three hours. And they hooked it up with the internet.
That meant that anyone on the internet could use
to determine whether their trip to the vending machine would be rewarded with a cold caffienated bottle or not.
This is generally thought to be the first example of the Internet of Things: using the internet to communicate with machines.
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