We’ve been obsessed with automata since biblical times. The Greek god Hephaestus had a blacksmiths to make automated beings. King Solomon had a throne with automated animals and birds moving the Torah around. Hell, even the real Greeks had automated owls powered by water siphons.
Automation of the food industry started in Berlin in 1888 when Max Sielaff obtained a patent for his new automaton restaurants. The Automat was a restaurant where a patron would insert a coin into a wall of shelves and drawers. A small door would pop open and you’d have your meal. On the other side of the wall of drawers the staff would work to keep the drawers full of hot food. It was a smashing success. Max had 47 Automat restaurants before taking his patent to the United States in 1902. It was a huge success there too.
The innovation was hailed as the champion of the disenfranchised because it provided cheap, hot food for a tiny price. This led to all vending machines to this day. A device we all but take for granted. Progress is a funny thing. Would any of us give up ATMs if it meant more jobs at the bank? Do we really need a human changing our car’s oil, or can a automaton do that too? Maybe that person’s time is better spent studying to get a better life? Soon there won’t even be cars that need oil, and smartphones will replace ATMs and debit cards. I mean, who doesn’t go straight for self-check in at an airport if they haven’t checked in online already? How often do you use the self-check out at the grocery store?