In 1935, the publisher Allen Lane was waiting at Exeter Train Station after visiting Agatha Christie. He was appalled by the poor selection of reading material on offer and had the idea of producing contemporary literature in paperback format at an affordable price.
He determined that his Penguin Paperbacks should cost no more than the price of a packet of cigarettes and be available in a wide variety of locations rather than solely in traditional bookshops.
Two years later in a bid to make his Penguin Paperbacks even more widely available he invented the 'Penguincubator' vending machine. This now meant that his paperbacks were available at a wider variety of locations such as railway platforms and could be purchased at any time of the day.
Moving ahead 75 years, I was recently holidaying in Las Vegas and came across several of these old cigarette machines in the hotel where I was staying. These refurbished machines have been given a new lease of life as 'Art-o-mat®' vending machines and now dispense art to the masses at $5 a pop. Artist Clark Whittington came up with the idea for the Art-o-mat® in 1997 and now has more than 90 machines spread throughout the United States.
I have to confess to getting a little hooked on these things and brought back a number of original art works for my friends and family.
There's a satisfying ker-plunk as you pull the handle and then a little wait while your new art purchase slides down into the dispensing tray below.
It's an art lucky dip but cheap enough to be fun and a better gamble than some of the other machines that were nearby.