History of Slot Machines

Slot machines are one of the most popular casino games out there today. They were first introduced as far back as 1891. However, some historians argue whether this date is correct because the machine didn’t produce payouts.

Do you want to know about the origins of slot machines and the earliest ones? In this article, we will walk you through the history and evolution of slot machines.

Early Years

Early Years

One reason slot machines have become so popular in casinos and among gamblers is their progressive evolution.

In the 1880s, the earliest slot machines, which were initially called “nickel-in-slot machines” were introduced, and they became popular and were considered the first slot machines.

The game, however, didn’t involve any gambling unless patrons chose to bet on the horses. There weren’t monetary prices for winning, and the reward system basically entailed one player buying the other a beer if they lost.

These games were most common in pubs and gentleman’s clubs. But as with most games, it was only a matter of time before the inventors and business owners found a way to include bets and rewards.

The First Card Machines

The First Card Machines

The first slot machine that brought about gambling was the game that preceded what is now known as modern-day video poker.

In 1981, it was developed by Sittman and Pitt and was called the card machine. The card machine consisted of five drums and ten playing cards placed on each drum. The ten of spades and the jack of hearts were usually removed from the game, making it twice as hard to get a royal flush, thus giving the house an edge.

A coin is inserted, and then random spins occur on the wheel. Players can stop the wheel using the lever to generate a poker hand and win. There were no cash gifts, so it could be a beer or a cigar based on the card.

Charles Fey and the Liberty Bell Slot Machines

Charles Fey and the Liberty Bell Slot Machines

Most gamblers believe that the slot machine invention began with the liberty bell. Charles Fey invented the liberty bell and is regarded as the father of the poker machine. The actual date of the invention is not precisely known, but it falls somewhere between 1887 and 1895.

The liberty bell had some changes which made it different from that created by Sittman and Pitt. Due to these changes and improvements, the liberty bell is considered the origin of slot games.

These improvements were:

  • Replacing the five drums used to hold the symbols with three reels
  • Automated payout machines that allowed players to be paid directly from the machine
  • The poker face cards were replaced by five characters: a liberty bell, diamonds, hearts, spades, and horseshoes

Of all the symbols, the liberty bell was the most valuable. When three identical icons landed on the payline, which cut across the grid, winnings would be awarded.

Unfortunately, Charles failed to trademark the liberty bell invention, which led to many companies copying and replicating it.

Fruit Machines

Fruit Machines

In 1902, the United States banned real money slots. Companies were not ready to lose their investments, so they found a way to walk around the ban by creating fruit machines. This new development replaced the five liberty bell icons with fruit symbols like oranges, grapes, and lemons.

They included the bar symbol that is still in use today. Further, these fruit symbols have never got erased from the history of slot machines. If the reels landed on three bar symbols, the machine would offer a whole pack of gum rather than a single one.

A major attribute of the Mills Novelty Company designs was their jackpot implementation. Some of their machines had some combination of symbols that prompted the machine to offload the collected coins.

Eventually, the ban on real money slots was lifted in 1908. Regardless of that, the fruit symbols have remained widely used to date.

Electric Slots

Electric Slots

Things remained as they were until 1963 when Bally brought about a new change to the game with the electromechanical slot machine he invented, Money Honey.

Players were new to this, and the machines had been solely operated by simple mechanisms. A few companies started trying out electrical first slot machines in the 1940s, but they were still operated by levers.

Honey Money also stood out above other slot machines because it was the first with a bottom hopper that could pay as much as 500 coins.

Video Slots

Video Slots

After the electric slots, the next big thing in slot machine invention was in 1976 when the Fortune Coin company introduced the first video slot. Fortunes Coin used one of the most prominent inventions of 1960, coloured screens, to present the game on a 19-inch Sony screen.

After the game got unveiled, it went through testing and eventually got the Nevada State Gaming Commission’s approval before its mass production.

Online Slots

Online Slots

With the sudden arrival of the Internet in the mid-’90s came the development of the first online casinos. Initially, the games available were only classic casino games but not too long after, slots were added as well.

It was only a matter of time before the advent of online slots overshadowed the previous games and became the most popular casino game category. Today, slots are an indispensable part of online casinos where you can find thousands of unique titles.

Further, thanks to recent software technologies, online slots have introduced exciting features, such as cascading reels, appealing animations and sound effects, that enhance the gameplay experience.

Conclusion

One factor that has aided the popularity of slot machines is that they evolve continuously. If they had remained at the fruit machine level, offering only chewing gums, people would have hardly remained interested, and patronage would have significantly subsided.

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