Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Royal Show and Coin Machines

Arcade Coin Pusher, detailImage via Wikipedia

I went to the Perth Royal Show last night. For those of you who are not from Australia, it's like a State fair in the US where farmers come to town to show off their produce and animals, there is also a side show and exhibitions.

One of popular machines in side show alley is the coin pushers - you know the one where you drop in a coin and it pushes them all together and if you are lucky some will go over the edge.

As a kid I never really noticed the mechanics - just the possibilities of a huge windfall right in front of me. This time I had a look at the machines themselves - as the coins get closer to the edge, the machine has a "gutters" on each side (usually covered) that coins fall into - you won't hear them go through as the have dampened the sound as they fall into the machine safe box. There is also the lip on the edge of the cliff that puts a little more resistance on the coins about to go over forcing more coins into the gutter. The overall effect is a machine that looks like it will give out change but is actually maintaining the status quo collecting a lot more money than you think.

Coincidentally (no linguistic pun intended) I came across this piece today by Kevin Honeycutt - Who likens the machine to schools. I agree with the analogy, you seem to put a lot of time and money in but you get very little reward, even though you can see it right in from of your eyes. I would include the gutters as places where change gets lost due the construction of the school and it's policies. It is always an "out" for teachers who are being pushed to change but find it easier to do nothing and blame it on the system. It's also why kids sometimes want to tip the machine over (TILT! TILT! TILT!) due to the sheer frustration of not getting anything out of it.

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