The Drexel laptop vending machine

February 7, 2013 7:32:56 AM PST
Back in the 1940's an electrical engineering professor and his prize student at Penn changed the world by inventing the digital computer.

Eniac was a room full of electron tubes and was about as sophisticated as today's throwaway pocket calculator. But it was the first step into the digital age.

Since then, a lot of computer breakthroughs entered the world around the corner at Drexel University.

A Drexel grad helped develop the Internet. In September 1985, Drexel became the first college anywhere to require students to own a computer.

Now, Drexel's library is in the headlines worldwide as one of the first places anywhere to have a computer vending machine.

For some time, students have been able to borrow a Mac Book from the circulation desk, but its hours are limited.

The library itself never closes. Until this year, students visiting at odd hours had to choose - bring their own computer to the library or do without.

With the new vending machine, anyone with a Drexel ID can borrow a Mac laptop for up to five hours at no charge.

Some use them to watch professors' video lectures. More write papers and do other library-based projects. At the end of a session, work may be saved to portable media like a thumb drive or simply e-mailed home.

The vending machine is also a charging station, so any computer waiting to be used is automatically getting its batteries boosted.

Students told us they like the convenience. There's also an element of personal security in not carrying a computer around campus in the middle of the night.

Dean of Libraries Dr. Danuta Nitecki instituted the program and is looking to expand it. She says it might be possible to "vend" smaller devices like a tablet computer some day.

She's also open to manufactures partnering with the university to place their computers in machines and defray the startup costs.

In the few weeks the program has been up and running, many students who own Pc-based products have become enamored of the Macs and are considering switching brands with their next purchase.

There's more about Drexel's computer lending program online .