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Title:
COMPACT TABLE-TOP VENDING MACHINE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1998/047799
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A light and compact vending machine (1) suitable for use on a table or counter top, uses interchangeable magazines (3) that can be preloaded with goods (10) at a service center and quickly and conveniently installed on or removed from the machine. Each magazines comprises several levels of good-holding trays (15), each tray capable of storing in a mixed arrangement, several items of various sizes and configurations. Each magazine can group trays having stations (11) that differ in numbers and sizes. Each station has an access port on the front of the magazine through which a spiral holding rack (13) driven by a mechanism mounted in the machine pushes goods and causes them to fall into a distribution pocket (9). The currency accepted by a currency acceptor (7) in payment for the goods is automatically dropped into a sealed receptacle (22) at the bottom of the magazine. Personnel servicing the machine by replacing an empty one with a loaded one need not handle the goods or the cash.

Inventors:
Charmasson, Henri J. A. (Suite 150, 1545 Hotel Circle South San Diego, CA, 92108, US)
Simson, Anton K. (13227 Aubrey Street, Poway, CA, 92064, US)
Brusso, Peter C. (1480 Calico Lane, Escondido, CA, 92029, US)
Ruskin, Frank (225 West 38th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90037, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US1998/008064
Publication Date:
October 29, 1998
Filing Date:
April 15, 1998
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
Charmasson, Henri J. A. (Suite 150, 1545 Hotel Circle South San Diego, CA, 92108, US)
Simson, Anton K. (13227 Aubrey Street, Poway, CA, 92064, US)
Brusso, Peter C. (1480 Calico Lane, Escondido, CA, 92029, US)
Ruskin, Frank (225 West 38th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90037, US)
International Classes:
G06Q30/06; G07F5/18; G07F9/02; G07F11/42; (IPC1-7): B65G59/00; B65H3/00
Foreign References:
US5509573A
US5690251A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Charmasson, Henri J. A. (Suite 150, 1545 Hotel Circle South San Diego, CA, 92108, US)
Charmasson, Henri J. A. (Suite 150, 1545 Hotel Circle South San Diego, CA, 92108, US)
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Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A vending machine which comprises: a housing cabinet having a good dispensing opening; detachable and replaceable magazine having a plurality of goodholding stations, and means for extracting goods therefrom within each of said stations; means housed outside said magazine for driving said means for extracting; means for selectively activating one of said means for driving; a control mechanism, housed within said cabinet, including; means for selecting an item to be dispensed out of said stations; and means, responsive to said means for selecting, for controlling said means for selectively activating one of said means for driving.
2. The vending machine of Claim 1, wherein said means for selecting an item comprises a coin accepting mechanism; and said magazine comprises a receptacle for collecting coins accepted by said coin accepting mechanism.
3. The vending machine of Claim 2, wherein said means for selecting an item further comprises a payment card reader.
4. The vending machine of Claim 1, wherein said magazine comprises a octangular box having a closable front and a back panel; at least one row of said goodsholding stations housed within said box; and wherein each of said goodsholding stations comprises one of said means for extracting goods.
5. The vending machine of Claim 4, wherein each of said means for extracting comprises an axially rotatable spiral goodsholding rack havaing a shaft extending through a hole in said back panel; and said means for selectively driving comprise a motormounted on a back area of said housing cabinet and being engaged with said shaft when said magazine is placed in said housing cabinet.
6. The vending machine of Claim 5, wherein said box comprises a plurality of superimposed layers of goods holding station racks.
7. The vending machine of Claim 6, wherein said magazine further comprises means for closing said front when said magazine is removed from said housing cabinet.
8. The vending machine of Claim 2, wherein said coin receptacle comprises a oneway coin entry and a securable access door for retrieving coins received therein.
9. The vending machine of Claim 7, wherein said housing cabinet further comprises a mounting frame positioned behind and parallel to the back panel of said magazine withn said magazine is moutned in siad housing cabinet, a plurality of motorholding modules removably secured to said mounted frame; wherein each of said motorholding modules include a row of said motors having driveshafts sized and positioned to engage with corresponding shafts of said goodsholding racks.
10. The vending machine of Claim 9, wherein at least two of said layers of goodsholding station racks hold different numbers of goodsholding stations.
11. A vending machine for dispensing a plurality of goods and for accepting payment therefor, said machine comprising: a removable and replaceable magazine having sealable cells sized and dimensioned to hold said goods; whereby said machine may be restocked by substituting an empty one of said magazine with a loaded one without separate handling of said goods by service persons.
12. The vending machine of Claim 11 which further comprises a currencyaccepting apparatus, mounted outside said magazine, and a sealed receptacle for holding accepted currency in said magazine, and a goodsdistributing pocket to receive goods extracted from said magazine.
13. The vending machine of Claim 12, wherein said magazine further comprises goodsholding cells that can be addressed for selectively and extracting goods therefrom.
14. The vending machine of Claim 13, wherein said cells are distributed over a plurality of layers, wherein each layer comprises a plurality of sidebyside positioned cells.
15. The vending machine of Claim 14, wherein cells differ in numbers and sizes between said layers.
16. The vending machine of Claim 12, wherein said magazine further comprises a lockable door for preventing access to said goods and said currency when said magazine is removed from said vending machine.
17. The vending machine of Claim 16 which further comprises a locking mechanism for securing said magazine into said vending machine.
18. The vending machine of Claim 17, wherein said locking mechanism comprises means for opening a passage between said magazine and said goodsdistributing pocket when said magazine is locked inside said machine; and means for closing said passage when said magazine is pulled out of said machine.
19. The vending machine of Claim 20, wherein said means opening comprise meas for partially opening said door; and said means closing comprise means for moving and locking said door against and opening of said magazine.
20. The vending machine of Claim 11, wherein each of said cells comprise a rotatable spiral rack shaped and dimensioned to hold and propel goods out of said cells and said vending machine further comprises a gang of motors each positioned on a back plane of said machine to contact and drive one of said spiral racks. AMENDED CLAIMS [received by the International Bureau on 04 September 1998 (04.09.98); original claims 1,3,4,7,9,11,13 and 16 amended;remaining claims unchanged (5 pages) 1. A vending machine which comprises: a housing cabinet having a good dispensing opening; detachable and replaceable magazine having a plurality of goodholding stations, and means for extracting goods therefrom within each of said stations; means housed outside said magazine for driving said means for extracting; means for selectively activating one of said means for extracting; a control mechanism, housed within said cabinet, including; means for selecting an item to be dispensed out of said stations; and means, responsive to said means for selecting, for controlling said means for selectively activating one of said means for extracting.
21. 2 The vending machine of Claim 1, wherein said means for selecting an item comprises a coin accepting mechanism; and said magazine comprises a receptacle for collecting coins accepted by said coin accepting mechanism.
22. 3 The vending machine of Claim 1, wherein said means for selecting an item comprises a payment card reader.
23. 4 The vending machine of Claim 1, wherein said magazine comprises a octangular box having at least one closable front door and a back panel; at least one row of said goodsholding stations housed within said box; and wherein each of said goodsholding stations comprises one of said means for extracting goods.
24. 5 The vending machine of Claim 4, wherein each of said means for extracting comprises an axially rotatable spiral goodsholding rack havaing a shaft extending through a hole in said back panel; and said means for selectively driving comprise a motormounted on a back area of said housing cabinet and being engaged with said shaft when said magazine is placed in said housing cabinet.
25. 6 The vending machine of Claim 5, wherein said box comprises a plurality of superimposed layers of goods holding station racks.
26. 7 The vending machine of Claim 6, wherein said magazine further comprises means for closing and securing said front door before said magazine can be removed from said housing cabinet.
27. 8 The vending machine of Claim 2, wherein said coin receptacle comprises a oneway coin entry and a securable access door for retrieving coins received therein.
28. 9 The vending machine of Claim 7, wherein said housing cabinet further comprises a mounting frame positioned behind and parallel to the back panel of said magazine withn said magazine is mounted in said housing cabinet, a plurality of motorholding modules removably secured to said mounted frame; wherein each of said motorholding modules include a row of said motors having driveshafts sized and positioned to engage with corresponding shafts of said goodsholding racks.
29. 10 The vending machine of Claim 9, wherein at least two of said layers of goodsholding station racks hold different numbers of goodsholding stations.
30. 11 A vending machine for dispensing a plurality of goods and for accepting payment therefor, said machine comprising: a removable and replaceable magazine having a plurality of sealable cells sized and dimensioned to hold said goods; and means for securely sealing said cells before said magazine can be removed from said vending machine; whereby said machine may be restocked by substituting an empty one of said magazine with a loaded one without separate handling of said goods by service persons.
31. 12 The vending machine of Claim 11 which further comprises a currencyaccepting apparatus, mounted outside said magazine, and a sealed receptacle for holding accepted currency in said magazine, and a goods distributing pocket to receive goods extracted from said magazine.
32. 13 The vending machine of Claim 11, wherein said magazine further comprises goodsholding cells that can be addressed for selectively and extracting goods therefrom.
33. 14 The vending machine of Claim 13, wherein said cells are distributed over a plurality of layers, wherein each layer comprises a plurality of sidebyside positioned cells.
34. 15 The vending machine of Claim 14, wherein cells differ in numbers and sizes between said layers.
35. 16 The vending machine of Claim 12, wherein said means for securely sealing comprise a lockable door for preventing access to said goods and said currency when said magazine is removed from said vending machine.
36. 17 The vending machine of Claim 16 which further comprises a locking mechanism for securing said magazine into said vending machine.
37. 18 The vending machine of Claim 17, wherein said locking mechanism comprises means for opening a passage between said magazine and said goodsdistributing pocket when said magazine is locked inside said machine; and means for closing said passage when said magazine is pulled out of said machine.
38. 19 The vending machine of Claim 20, wherein said means opening comprise meas for partially opening said door; and said means closing comprise means for moving and locking said door against and opening of said magazine.
39. 20 The vending machine of Claim 11, wherein each of said cells comprise a rotatable spiral rack shaped and dimensioned to hold and propel goods out of said cells and said vending machine further comprises a gang of motors each positioned on a back plane of said machine to contact and drive one of said spiral racks. STATEMENT UNDER ARTICLE 19 (1) In the enclosed Amendment Under Article 19, The term "driving" on lines 9 and 16 has been changed to extracting in Claim 1. Claim 3 has been made dependent upon Claim 1 instead of Claim 2. In line 2 of Claim 4, the phrase at least one closable front door replaces "a closable front". Typographical errors were corrected on line 4 of Claim 9. Material was added on lines 78 of Claim 11 to recite the securing feature of the magazine. The dependency of Claim 13 has been changed to Claim 11 instead of Claim 12. Claim 16 has been amended to further emphasize the magazine securing feature. This amendment has no impact upon the drawing.
Description:
COMPACT TABLE-TOP VENDING MACHINE Prior Application This is a continuation-in-part of copending application Serial Number 08/844,767 filed April 22, 1997.

Field of the Invention This invention relates to vending machines, and more specifically to the type of vending machines found on jobsites capable of distributing pastries, small snack items, and beverages.

Background of the Invention Conventional vending machines for pastries, candy bars, soda cans and- other snack products must be able to hold a substantial inventory of goods so that they do not need to be serviced too often. Accordingly, they tend to be bulky and heavy and occupy about a square meter (10 square feet) of floor space, with a height of almost 2 meters (72 inches).

The reloading of such a machine is time consuming since items must be inserted one by one, and inventory of unsold items must be checked for expiration date. Cash must then be collected and counted by the servicing employee.

These cumbersome procedures are time-consuming, labor intensive, and sometimes lead to pilferage and theft.

Conventional machines are not well-adapted to small

job sites having 150 employees or less, because the profit generated at such a small site can not justify the labor cost of servicing a vending machine.

U.S. Patent No. 4,236,649 Fellner et al. offers a partial solution to the above-mentioned problems by the use of a removable and replaceable magazine for the goods which can be loaded in the factory then used to replace an empty magazine or partially empty one. However, this type of magazine is relatively inefficient since it can hold only one item of goods in each location. Moreover, the coins need still be collected and counted on site. The same type of shortcomings characterize the vending machine disclosed in U.S. Patent No. RE. 32,115 Lockwood et al.

which uses a drum carousel to hold the goods to be sold.

Although an empty carousel could be removed and replaced by a fully loaded one, each carousel station can only hold one item, and the cash must be handled separately. The inefficient designs of the above inevitably leads to bulky vending machines which are not suitable for small locations.

The instant invention results from an attempt to palliate these various shortcomings.

Summarv of the Invention The principal and secondary objects of this invention are to provide a compact, efficient vending machine that can be installed on a desk top or counter top

with a minimal on-site service time and cost. A further object of the invention is to eliminate merchandise and cash attrition during on-site service.

These and other valuable objects are achieved by means of a compact vending machine that can be conveniently installed on a table top or counter top surfaces such as the counter of a cafeteria, wherein a replaceable magazine holds all the goods to be distributed, and collect all the currency that is used to pay for it. Accordingly, the servicing consists only in removing the empty or near empty magazine which also holds the cash in a tamper-proof receptacle, and replacing it with a new magazine that has been fully loaded in the factory without any need for on-site inventory or handling of any kind of goods or cash.

Each magazine comprises several layers of sets of merchandise-holding stations arranged so that their access ports are on the front of the magazine. Each station includes a spiral goods-holding rack driven by a motor mounted on the back plane of the enclosure. During transportation and handling a door closes the access ports. Once the magazine is in the machine, the door separates slightly from the open front of the magazine to form a chute opening into a distributing pocket. The merchandise selected by the user is pushed forward by a spiral rack and falls into the chute leading to a distribution pocket. Currency from a coin box is automatically directed into a

sealed receptacle at the bottom of the magazine. A keypad is used to make a selection of items seen through the transparent door of the machine. Payment for the goods can also be made by means of a magnetic card. This type of vending machine is particularly indicated for small businesses or for small departments in a large organization.

Brief DescriPtion of the Drawing Figure 1 is a front elevational view of the vending machine; Figure 2 is a top plan view thereof with the magazine withdrawn for removal; Figure 3 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 3-3 of Figure 1; Figure 4 is a back elevational view of the motor- holding module assembly; Figure 5 is a perspective view of the magazine with the transparent door in the shipping position; Figure 6 is a detailed cross-sectional view of the sprial rack-motor coupling mechanism; Figure 7 is an exploded view of the lock assembly; Figure 8 is a block diagram of the electronic units; and Figure 9 is a flow diagram of the machine operation.

DescriPtion of the Preferred Embodiment of the Invention Referring now to the drawing, there is shown a compact, counter top vending machine 1 housed in a molded plastic and sheet metal cabinet 2. A substitutable, quadrangular magazine 3 having a transparent front door 4 is securely held into the cabinet. The customer interface includes a message display 5, a keypad 6 upon which the selection of a desired goods can be made, a currency- acceptor 7, a magnetic-card reader 8 and a dispensing pocket 9. The goods 10 and the numbers of the stations or cells 11 holding them can be observed through the transparent door of the magazine.

Each station 11 can hold a plurality of goods having the same sale price. Each station is identified by a letter (A-E) and a number (1-5) designating a column of stations. In each station 11, a plurality of goods are held between the coils of a spiral rack 13. These goods may be of various configurations or sizes. When a spiral rack is rotated, it acts as an Archimedes screw, and shifts the goods toward the access port 14 along the front of the magazine. The magazine comprises five layers of goods-holding station units or trays 15. It should be understood that the number of stations in each unit and the number of units in a magazine can be varied to accommodate different sizes and varieties of goods.

Typically, small goods such as candy bars can be loaded on a five-station unit such as

the one shown in the third row. Large items such as pastries and potato chip packs that require a larger station, can be loaded on units having four stations such as the one shown in the first, second, fourth and fifth rows.

The lower, lateral corner of the magazine 3 rests upon a pair of fully extendible drawer slides 16, 17 for ease of installation and removal as illustrated in Figure 2. Elongated, shallow depressions 18, 19 in the sides of the transparent door 4 form convenient pulling handles.

As more specifically illustrated in Figures 3 and 5, the magazine 3 comprises a quadrangular box 20 housing in which the transparent door 4 is hinged by a set of pins 21 along the upper frontal edge. The lower part of the box is occupied by a currency receptacle 22. The front, lateral edges 23, 24 of the box 20 are slightly slanted downwardly and inwardly. The transparent door 4 has two pairs of lateral flanges 25, 26 that overlap by approximately 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) the sides of the box. Accordingly, when the door 4 is held in a vertical position as shown in Figure 3, there is created a void space 27 between the access ports 14 of the station and the back face of the transparent door. Moreover, because of the slanted edges 23, 24 of the cabinet, there remains an open gap 28 between the lower edges of the box and the transparent door. This gap matches an opening 29 on the front top part of the

dispensing pocket 9. The void 27 and the gap 28 provide a chute for the goods ejected by the spiral racks out of their respective stations.

When the magazine is installed in the cabinet, and the transparent door is kept in the above-described vertical position, a slot opening 30 in the right side of the coin receptacle is not covered by the right flange 25, and is lined up with the base of a currency chute 31 which drops down from the currency-acceptor. However, when the magazine is extracted from the cabinet, the transparent door is slanted inwardly as more specifically illustrated in Figure 5. In that position, the right flange of the door 24 completely seals the slot opening 30. A locking mechanism 32 is attached to a central, lower section of the transparent door 4 and passing through the currency box 22 cooperates with a keyed-pin 33 mounted on the back frame 41 of the cabinet.

The locking mechanism 32 comprises two telescopically engaged members 35, 36 which are axially adjustable through the cooperative action of their male 37 and female 38 threads. At the distal end of each member is a lock 39, 40. The locks act as clutches, whereby in the unlocked position, the threaded members 35, 36 are free-spinning in relation to the locks, and in the locked position, the male threaded member 35 can be rotated by means of a key 32 providing that the keyed pin 33 is engaged

into the inner lock 40. Furthermore, once the cooperating members 35, 36 have been extended by a counter-clockwise movement of the key 42, the inner lock 40 cannot be separated from the keyed pin 33. The outer lock 39 is rotatively and permanently secured to the transparent door 4 by a washer 43. The inner lock 40 prevents the female- threaded member 36 from escaping from a pass-through hole in the back wall 34 of the magazine. The front lock is long enough to span most of the depth of the currency box receptacle 22. The inner lock 40 is rotatively attached to the back panel 34 of the magazine box 20 by a nut 44.

Accordingly, it can be understood that the transparent door 4 of the magazine can only be placed in the vertical position illustrated in Figure 3 when the magazine is fully inserted into the cabinet 2. In that position, the magazine is safely locked into the cabinet by the attachment of the inner lock 40 to the keyed pin 33. In order to remove the magazine from the cabinet, the service key 42 must be used to turn the male thread member 35 clockwise, thus pushing the transparent door's lower edge toward the lower edge of the currency receptacle, and effectively closing the slot opening 30 on the side of the currency receptacle. Once the magazine has been thus secured, the locking of the keyed pin 33 with the inner lock 40 is released and the magazine can be pulled out of the cabinet. It should be noted that the overhang 45 along the upper edge

of the box effectively prevents access to the station when the cabinet magazine is out of the cabinet. It should also be noted that when the magazine is inserted into the cabinet, the top edge 46 of the transparent door 4 abuts the upper edge or lintel 47 of the cabinet. Accordingly, the transparent door cannot be pulled back further than the vertical position shown in Figure 3. In a warehouse or service center, a special key similar to the keyed pin 33 is used to disengage the two threaded members 35, 36 in order to completely open the door 4 to give access to the stations.

In an alternate construction of the magazine, the box 20 is omitted. The station units or trays 15 are simply stacked upon one another and held together by self- aligning bolting pins to form the magazine.

In the back section of the cabinet, and for each row of goods-holding stations, there is a goods-extracting mechanism 49 that is engineered and positioned to contact the spiral rack of the goods-holding units. As shown in Figures 4 and 6, each goods-extracting mechanism comprises an electrical motor 50 coupled to a short spline 51 having at its distal end, a head 52 shaped and dimensioned to cduple with the spiral rack mechanism of a goods-holding station when the magazine is fully inserted into the cabinet. The shaft 53 of each spiral rack 13 is held in a bearing 54 that is mounted in the back plane of a station

unit, and passes through a hole in the back plane 40 of the magazine box 3 where it comes into engagement with the spline head 52 of a corresponding motor 50. Gangs of motors are mounted on motor-holding modules 55 secured to the back-mounting frame 41. There is one motor-holding module for each station unit. The wirings of the motors in each module are brought to a pigtail connector 56 that mates with a corresponding connector 57 on the main wiring harness 58 leading to the electronic control unit 59 located in the rear of the cabinet base. Accordingly, modules of four or five motors can be quickly substituted for one another to match the composition of the station units.

The goods dispensing pocket 9 comprises an opening 60 leading to a opens space 61 immediately below the front end of the magazine. The opening 60 is closed by a triangular trapdoor hinged just above and behind the upper edge of the opening. Goods escaping from one of the spiral racks fall down the chute 27 into the dispensing pocket 9 where they can be retrieved by pushing the trapdoor 62. It should be noted that the curved back 63 of the trapdoor tends to direct the goods toward the back end of the open space 61 where they do not interfere with the movement of the trapdoor. It should also be noted that when the trapdoor is pushed, it prevents access to the station by effectively closing the opening 29 in the roof of the dispensing pocket.

An electronic sensor 65 mounted near that opening detects the passage of the goods toward the distributing pocket. The output of the sensor is fed to the microprocessor 66 which constitutes the principal component of the electronic control unit 59. A fan 67 proximate the electronic control unit 59 is used to extract heat out of the cabinet. An infrared transceiver 68 provides access to the micro-processor data. This transceiver may be used by a service person to read useful information such as money paid, and goods sold using a type of hand-held downloading device well known to persons skilled in the art of data-processing.

It can now be understood that once a user has made a selection by dialing on the keypad 6 the identification of the station holding the desired type of goods, the goods-extracting mechanism servicing that particular station can then be activated to cause the goods most frontally located on the spiral rack to fall through the chute 27 into the dispensing pocket 9.

As shown in Figures 8 and 9, the operation of the vending machine is controlled by the microprocessor 66.

The motors are controlled by motor-control modules 69, and the address-decoder 70. The motor-control modules and the address decoder consist essentially of gated current drivers, that, under control of the microprocessor, feed the forward current to the two appropriate motor. A modem

71 provides the communication interface to the microprocessor. An LCD message display 72 which is part of display 5 on the front of the cabinet is used to suggest to the user an alternate selection when the selected items is not available and to give other notices as will be explained below. A light 73 is mounted in the front portion of the cabinet to illuminate the front opening of the stations.

As more specifically illustrated in Figure 9, the operation of the machine begins when the currency-acceptor detects that currency has been entered 101, or when a magnetic card has been inserted 102. In case of payment by currency, once the correct amount has been received 103, the system waits for the user to dial his choice of goods beginning with the letter corresponding to the proper row. In the case of a payment by magnetic card, the system first determines whether it is a credit card 104. In that case, the card owner's identification is read 105, and a credit check is initiated 106 via the modem 71. If credit is refused, the user is so advised by the display 108 of a rejection message. If the credit card owner has sufficient credit, the system waits for the user's selection. If the card is not a credit card, the system assumes that it is a debit, or so-called "smart card", and reads the card for the available balance 109.

If the balance is not sufficient to pay for one of the offered goods, a rejection message is displayed 108. If that balance is sufficient to

cover a purchase 110, the system waits for the user's selection.

Once the user has selected a row 111, that row identification is entered 112 into the microprocessor.

The system then waits for the dialing of the appropriate column 113. When the column is dialed, its identification is entered into the computer 114. At that point, the corresponding motor is started 115 and, at the same time, a ten-second timer is also started 116. If the timer expires 117 before the electronic sensor 65 detects the passage of goods into the dispensing pocket, the motor is stopped 118 and a message suggesting an alternate selection 119 is displayed. A twenty second timer is also started 120. If that timer runs out 121 before a new row letter is dialed by- the user, the magnetic card or the currency which has been introduced into the machine, is rejected 122. If a row letter is dialed before the expiration of the timer 123, the system proceeds with the entering of the row identification 112; then the column identification 114 as previously described. If the electronic sensor 65 detects the passage of the goods 124 before the ten-second timer runs out, the motor is stopped 125. In the event of payment by currency 126, the currency is accepted 127 and dropped into the currency receptacle 22. In case of payment by credit card 128, the charge is confirmed to the bank 129 via the modem 71. In case of payment by "smart card", the card is debited

130 by the price of the goods.

As disclosed in U.S. Patent No. RE. 32,115 Lockwood et al. which patent is incorporated in this specification by this reference, the modem 71 can be use to communicate with a warehouse or other type of control center, in order to provide information about the status of the vending machine such as the amount of goods already sold, proceeds received including the exact amount of currency which is now stored in the currency receptacle 22. The microprocessor can be programmed according to well-known techniques to initiate that kind of communication at preset intervals or specific times.

Alternately, the microprocessor can respond to polling calls initiated from the control center. From the information thus received at the control center, the most appropriate time when servicing personnel should be dispatched to exchange the magazine of the machine can be determined. Moreover, the amount of money held in the currency receptacle, as well as the amount of goods remaining in the magazine are already known and can be verified upon receipt of the magazine. Any tampering or pilfering by the service personnel can thus be abated.

The preferred embodiment of the vending machine has a total height of 99 centimeters (39 inches), a total width of 84 centimeters (33 inches), and a total depth of 51 centimeters (20 inches), and an approximate weight of 36 kilograms (80 pounds), including an empty magazine.

Such a

vending machine can be easily transported and installed on a table or counter top where it occupies no more than 0.5 square meters (5.4 square feet).

In order to minimize the manufacturing, reconfiguring and maintenance of the vending machine, a combination of modular molded plastic and stamped metal components are used. The back and bottom part of the cabinet constitutes a single metal-stamped assembly. The back mounting frame 41 and the motor-holding modules are also made of metal-stampings. The cabinet consists of two symmetrical and similar molded plastic half-shells joined in the middle of the cabinet. The transparent door and the magazine itself are also made of molded plastic.

While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been described, modifications can be made and other embodiments may be devised without departing from the spirit of the invention and the scope of the appended claims.