On a recent visit to a burger joint, I spied a large touchscreen on the soda machine. The old dozen or so choices weren't enough. As more and more of these machines hit fast food establishments, the thirsty customer will be able to chose from over a hundred of different soft drink combos. You can get a Coke with a squirt of orange (a mix previously only available in Russia and Baltic countries), a confusing combo of Mello Yello and grape, etc.
When I was a thirsty kid and feeling nonconformist, I'd mix a "suicide". This was rare because the soda fountains were seldom within reach. Remember, this is before limitless free self-serve refills. A suicide is when you take a little hit from each of the soda nozzles. You could end up with a mix of root beer, orange, Sprite, RC... All together in a mixture so volatile it might melt the bottom out of your wax paper cup.
For some reason, it was sort of a forbidden act. The lunch ladies at Ponderosa were convinced you were getting away with something when they spied you taking taking multiple hits off of the soda dispenser... and now Coke blatantly encourages this kind of behavior with what amounts to a jukebox for soda pop. Man... I used to be such a rebel.
The new machine is called Free Style, and they've been around since 2009. It's an impressive technical accomplishment. Instead of replacing only a few bags of syrup from time to time, there are dozens of little plug-in carts the vendor has to have on hand to snap in. To prevent this tragedy, there's a scary amount of carbonated thinking inside the machine. Not only does the machine notify the supplier when things are running low, but it also sends Coke data on trends of favorite drinks.
How long before the machine recognizes the fingerprints caressing its touchscreen, then automatically pours you a frosty cup of your fave suds? Your poor neighborhood bartender won't have a chance. I don't know if such a baffling variety of choices ultimately leads to more soda sales, all I can think about is that it must be hell for the clerks running the drive thru.
I'd say more, but I'm heading out to the patent office. I'm working on a machine that dispenses ten kinds of ice.