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Automaton WTOP veterans get forced retirement

Friday - 9/7/2012, 2:19pm  ET

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)
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Neal Augenstein,

WASHINGTON - They were fixtures at WTOP before the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center was built and before the invention of digital audio. Now it's time to move on.

Two vending machines that predate WTOP's presence on Idaho Avenue in Northwest are "retiring" this weekend, after a quarter-century of providing chips, candy bars and sodas in a 24-hour environment.

A lot has changed in the way we produce and edit audio and online content since the machines debuted.

"We had reel to reel machines back then. It was all analog, now we're all digital," recalls engineer Art Rose.

The machines, which were and are owned by a vendor, always had cheap prices.

Chips, most candy bars and soda cost 50 cents. Gum is a quarter.

Like most machines, "they mechanically hang up sometimes," said Rose.

The sound of a frustrated journalist, rocking the heavy machine back and forth to free paid-for but not-yet delivered sustenance was relatively rare.

With no restaurants in the building, and few within walking distance, the machines were often the only food available, even though peanuts were about as healthy as it came.

A staff memo was circulated, saying the new machines will arrive next week. Sources say they'll include "real food," including sandwiches.

Hmph. And they call this a newsroom.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)