The original slot machine was, of course, a much simpler mechanism than we know today. Running on metal ’reel hoops’, the machine would spin when a lever was pulled and randomly line up the symbols on the screen.Nowadays, slot machines still follow the same idea and are still programmed using a random number generator; however instead of gears they are powered by electrics. But how did the idea of coin-operated games come about?
The History of Slot Machines
In 1895, the first slot machine (The Liberty Bell) was invented by Charles Fey in San Francisco California and was made up of five symbols; hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and bells. It gained interest from saloons and bars, so Charles rented the machine out to them, which led to its popularity growing quickly. He developed more automated pay-out machines, but struggled to keep up with the rising demand.
Elsewhere, manufacturer Herbert Mills decided to release his own version of a gaming machine and by 1910 his company had expanded across America and Europe. However, despite its success, new laws came into place and money was no longer allowed to dispense from a machine.
In response to the American government, the Mills Company continued operating, but changed the prize inside. Now the machine rewarded sweets and images of fruit were used to symbolise this. The Operator Bell was in fact the first machine to do this and caused a spike in interest.
By the 1930s several other versions were created, some with prizes and some with money and, due to the continuing rise in popularity, gambling finally became legal in the state of Nevada.
Evolution of Mechanics
Soon after the legalisation of gambling the first electronic machine was invented, which was Money Honey by pinball manufacturer Bally. The machine was an industry first as it was not only running on electrics, enabling the machine to make additional sounds, but it also had a coin hopper meaning different types of coins could be used. This increased the jackpot that could be won and Bally quickly became the leader in the field.
With 90% of the market, Bally continued to innovate with the release of Hi Boy, the first upright slot machine, and Game Maker, the first electronic machine to have virtual wheels. However, competition was never too far away and International Game Technology launched the first random number generated machine.
Simulating the spinning of the reels, the random generated system enabled the machines to produce a diverse set of results which led to less wins, but bigger pay outs. Additionally, it meant the lever was no longer needed and the buttoned machines we know today were invented.
In the 1990s, slot machines changed again and this time moved online - giving a whole new meaning to diversity. From classic themes, containing a range of fruits, to themes influenced by modern society, such as mythical creatures and TV shows, going digital completely changed the game. For example, Paddy Power alone has over 100 slot machine games covering historical figures, different cultures, popular movies and TV shows, fantasy fiction and the classic fruit machines.
In addition, the introduction of online slot machines enabled thousands of people all across the world to play at the same time and has led to bigger pay outs. Known as a progressive jackpot, winnings have been recorded to reach over £1 million, due to thousands of people investing money into the game. With multiple machines linked, one lucky person eventually gets to take home the bulk of the money and others may receive a small pay out.
Online games also take small bets, so anyone can play along at home no matter what their budget. These machines are often multi-reel or multi-line and pay out more frequently, but a smaller cash prize is received.
Shortly after the release of online slots, online tournaments were introduced. Allowing players across the world to play against each other: an online tournament links participants electronically and they compete to accumulate the most coins in their Coin Box.
The Guinness World Records state that the largest tournament in slot machine history involved 3,173 players and was held by the Muckleshoot Casino in the USA. Conrad Granito, General Manager of Muckleshoot Casino, said: “This is a thrilling honour not just for Muckleshoot Casino, but for the incredible 3,173 players who hold this record with us equally. Their spirited enthusiasm, combined with the exhilarating fun of Everi’s TournEvent of Champions, created a winning combination.”
Slot machines have come a long way from the humble beginnings of the Liberty Bell Slot, which can still be viewed at the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, Nevada, USA, to the online games we now today. History also shows that the evolution would not have been possible without the development of technology and the popularity of the game.
If you are planning on visiting America why not stop by and take a look at the first ever slot machine to compare it with the modern version? If you do we would love to hear your thoughts, or why not send in some photos of your favourite slot games.