The slot machine is easily the most popular casino game in the world today. We see these machines dominate the land-based casino industry, and their video equivalents have all but taken over the iGaming market as well. Their incredible popularity has gotten many to wonder about the history of the slot machine, and where it all began. In this article, we answer that precise question.
Charles Fey and the Liberty Bell
There are quite a few names that we associate with gambling. Charles Fey is certainly one of them. In 1895, the car mechanic unveiled his invention; a machine comprised of three reels, and several slots, each marked with a different symbol of good luck, a horse shoe, a heart, a clover, and of course, the Liberty Bell.
Due to the uniqueness of including the Liberty Bell, the first ever slot machine bears the name of the American symbol. Charles Fey’s invention attained nationwide popularity, and pretty soon, similar machines could be found at local bars throughout the USA. Nowadays, of course, we visit online casinos and the best slot sites to play our favorite games. However, there are many people that still enjoy standing face to face with the reels, and pulling on that lever.
The Fruit Machine Revolution
In the early 20th century, Charles Fey’s machine attained national success. Saloons, pubs, and bars across the country had slot machines, where payers could win cigars, cigarettes, free drinks, and even cash prizes. We could comfortably say that Charles Fey’s popularity was akin to that of Alexander Graham Bell, and other US-based inventors of the era.
The Liberty Bell’s popularity was incredible, however, the 20th century brought with it some harsh gambling restrictions. The slot machines had, up to that point, been using card symbols, such as hearts, clubs, and spades. The nationwide, anti-gambling laws, prohibited the use of such symbols, which made slot machines unusable. Gamblers needed a change.
That is where the idea of the fruit slot came from. Instead of card suits, luck symbols, etc., slots would now feature strawberries, peaches, oranges, lemons, and other popular fruits. Many of these symbols have become staples in gambling, and a lot of slots, even online ones, still use them to this day.
The fruit machines were marketed as candy/gum dispensers, and the fruits themselves represented the different flavors. Needless to say, fruit machines were a huge success, both among buyers and gamblers. However, even they would soon be replaced.
Slot Games in the 20th Century
The latter half of the 20th century saw a massive increase in technological improvement, not just in the gambling world, but in general. Computers became more widely available, the telephone was a household appliance, and most families had at least one car. Slot creators had to keep up with the technological improvements.
- Electromechanical Slots
In the 1960s, the first-ever electromechanical slot machine hit the saloons and casinos. By fusing electricity with mechanical functions, the new machine could offer various new features and options for enthusiastic gamblers. At the time, electromechanical slots may have looked like the future of gambling. However, they too were soon replaced.
- Video Slots
If you visit a casino today, you are most likely to find dozens, if not hundreds of slot games. Most of these machines will be video slots. Developed in the 70s and 80s, video slots allow game developers to infuse their slot machines with complex themes, audio and visual effects, and even much more interesting gameplay. They were also instrumental in the future development of the slot game industry.
- Online Slots
With the world wide web’s massive rise in popularity in the 1990s, came the advent of the online slot. Today, when most people think of gambling, they think of online casinos, and the slot games that they feature. Much like video slots, online games have the capability to explore various themes, gameplay mechanics, and visual/audio effects. They also have the added benefit of convenience, which makes them so popular among modern day gamblers.
The Future of Slots
Online slots are here to stay. Along with video slots, they are by far the most popular and successful iteration of the classic casino game. As for the future of slot games, who knows what developments in tech may hold. From VR slots to holographic games, we can only speculate and hope.