History of Slot Machines
Slot machines have brought joy to the lives of many, who would have guessed all those years ago that a mechanical gambling device would become such an iconic object.
Known as slot machines in the United State, fruit machines in the United Kingdom and a poker machine or “pokie” in Australia; these machines have a long and colourful history behind them. Today’s slot machines have come a long way from the original one armed bandits that gave gum for prizes. Today slots players can choose from a range of virtual online slots and huge progressive jackpot wins are possible.
Charles Fey and the Liberty Bell
The first slot machine was invented as a mechanical gambling machine, based on the card game of poker; the first slot machine was a simplified answer to the problem of how to automate a poker game. In 1887 Charles Fey invented a machine with 3 spinning reels and this first slot machine had 5 symbols which were diamonds, hearts, horseshoes, spades and the Liberty Bell, which is where the slot got its name.
Traditional Style Symbols
In fact the Liberty Bell was the first jackpot symbol and 3 of these in a row was the highest payout for Liberty Bell slots. Luckily for Charles Fey his device proved to be extremely popular, so despite the fact that the use of these early slot machines was banned in his home state there was a huge demand from elsewhere for the Liberty Bell slot machine.
It was also common for this early style of machine to give payouts in the form of fruit flavoured gum and this particular sort of slot machine had the fruit themed symbols that are still common today. This is where the traditional style cherry, melon and bar symbols come from. The bar symbol is actually an early version of the logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company and you can still see this symbol today on slot machines in online and land based casinos all over the world. The candy based prizes were used to evade prosecution under anti-gambling law as no cash prizes were won.
The Next Generation
It then took until 1963 for Bally Technologies Inc to develop Money Honey the world’s first electromechanical slot machine. Instead of completely mechanical components, electrical components were also incorporated in to the design of the slot machine and this meant improved gameplay as well as allowing multi-coin bets which meant higher payouts.
The increase in the jackpots and the more cosmetic changes such as flashing lights ensured that this new generation of slot machines became increasingly popular among players.
In fact, before the emergence of the electromechanical slot machines table games were by far the most popular casino games, however, slot machines were fast becoming the most popular type of casino games.
In the 1980’s the explosion of microchip technology led to some exciting advances in the world of online slots. In fact the world’s first video slot made its debut as early as 1979; Walt Fraley invented Fortune Coin and it was truly ahead of its time. So much so that at first slots players were mistrustful of the new technology and computerised reels on a the screen
IGT the famous slot manufacturer bought the patent for Fortune Coin in 1976 and with clever marketing and further development of this new kind of slot machine they ensured that this new generation of slots game was a big hit.
This technology also allowed the linking of multiple slot machines in multiple sites. The first progressive slot machines were invented in 1986 by the slot manufacturing company IGT; this slot machine was called Megabucks.
The event of the internet and increasingly fast and powerful computers allowed for the development of the first slots with bonus games in the 1990’s and the online slots that we see today. Casinos can reach a wider base of slots players online and with video slot machines and online slot machines the only limits to the design and gameplay is the developers imagination and software providers are constantly pushing the boundaries to produce the most exciting, fun and original slot machines.