January 31, 2006:
American aircraft carriers are changing the way vending machines are designed. Since World War II, American aircraft carriers have been carrying vending machines. On warships, someone is working at all hours, and the galley is not always open when someone wants something to eat. Back in the 1940s, the vending machines were a relatively new, and popular, technology. Many of the machines back then were completely mechanical, requiring no electricity. This appealed to the navy, and many commercial vending machines were installed on the larger ships. Today, American aircraft carriers have hundreds of vending machines on board. The most popular ones are those that dispense soft drinks. On a carrier, something cool, and laced with caffeine, is just the sort of thing to get your through a pre-dawn watch (shift). One problem with the vending machines was that, in areas where a lot of sailors worked around the clock (like the hanger deck, where aircraft are repaired), you had to replenish soda machines several times a day. For the last few years, the navy has been looking for ways to automate warships and reduce crew size. Out of this came the design for the world's largest soda vending machine. The "Vending in a box" (VIB) holds 1,560 cans of soda, about three times more than the largest commercial machine available. The first VIB was installed in the new carrier, USS Reagan, and proved a great success. More VIBs are being built and installed, and the new CVN-21 carrier design will be modified to make space for VIBs. Much less manpower is needed to maintain a VIB, and that will reduce the size of the crew.