Slot Machine History
As such it is possible to engage with any modern gadget without knowing its history, and the same is true for slots machines. But knowing slots machine history will provide that extra enjoyment when you understand when and why a particular feature was introduced.
The history of slots machines is more than a century old, though most of the developments have taken place in the last 50 years. This article will take you back in time when mechanical slots machines were found in pubs, stores and barber shops and end with the present online slot machines that can be played from the comfort of your homes.
Poker Slot Machines
There is general agreement that the first slot machine was produced in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt from Brooklyn, New York. It was a simple mechanical device that had 5 drums with 50 poker cards fixed on them. Hence it was given the name Poker Slot Machine. To activate the slot machine the player had to insert a coin into a slot in the machine and pull a lever. The drums rotated and stopped randomly displaying a five card poker hand. The payouts were not automatic. The machine attendant dispensed cigars, drinks or candies, depending on how high ranking the poker hand was. The Ten of spades and Jack of hearts were removed from the deck to give an advantage to the slots machine.
One Armed Bandits
"One Armed Bandit" is a term that is used to describe the earliest slots machines. When slots machines were first developed mechanical force was required to start the spinning of the drums or reels. This was generated by a lever sticking out of one side of the machine. The lever had to be pulled down to start the slots machine. Since the lever looked like an arm the term "One Armed" was coined. The odds were such that players would usually end up losing money while playing slots machines. Since the slots machines took away the players’ money "Bandit" was added to "One Armed" and the entire name became "One Armed Bandit". In later slots machines the lever was replaced by a button that generated electrical force.
Liberty Bell Slots
Charles Fey of San Francisco developed the first slots machine with an automatic payout mechanism in 1895. He reduced the number of outcomes in the Poker Slot Machine by using three reels instead of five and only five symbols instead of fifty. These symbols were horseshoe, diamonds, spades, hearts and the Liberty Bell. Hitting three Liberty Bells in a row resulted in the largest payout, and hence the slots machine was called Liberty Bell Slots. Liberty Bell Slots did not require an attendant and it therefore resulted in wide spread use. Since Fey could not meet the demand, other manufacturers stepped in and by 1908 lookalikes of Liberty Bell Slots could be found everywhere. The original is housed at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant in Reno.
Fruit Machines are a special type of slots machine that became extremely popular in the pubs in the United Kingdom. It followed the three reel format developed by Fey but used symbols of popular fruits like cherry, lemon, orange and water melon. Instead of dispensing coins as prizes, the Fruit Machines dispensed fruit flavored gum. This was to bypass the laws that disallowed gambling machines. Gaming machines were allowed in pubs provided it could be shown that an element of skill was involved. Therefore features like Nudge and Hold were incorporated in Fruit Machines. The Nudge feature allows players to move a particular reel by one spot only and the Hold feature allows the player to keep one reel fixed and re-spin the others.
Electro Mechanical Slots
In the middle of the twentieth century electrical components began to effectively substitute mechanical components in machines, including slots machine. This range of slots machines that made its entry in 1940 is referred to as Electro Mechanical Slots. In 1950 there was a race to build the biggest slot machine and Big Bertha was born. It was a six by ten feet machine with eight reels and twenty symbols on each reel, powered by a 5 HP motor. In 1963 Bally developed the first completely Electro Mechanical Slots titled Money Honey. Money Honey employed a bottomless hopper and had an automatic payout of up to 500 coins. The slots machine was started with a button and the side lever was done away with.
The advent of Video Slots in 1975 completely changed the slots machine industry. Video Slots do not have any moving parts at all. The spinning of the reels is simulated on an electronic screen using software that contains a random number generator, which determines the final symbols on display. The first Video Slots was invented by Walt Fraley and was titled Fortune Coin. Originally Video Slots were not very popular, because players did not trust the integrity of the software when compared to the physical reels that they could see spinning and stopping. Around 1979 video poker machines gained acceptance and it was only after that the popularity of Video Slots began to increase. Today all slots machines in land casinos are Video Slots. IGT, Bally Gaming, Aristocrat and WMS Gaming are the leading manufacturers of Video Slots for land casinos. The latest Video Slots have fantastic audio visual displays and may offer progressive jackpot payouts.
Online Slots are slots games played at online casinos. In essence they are video slots because they are software based. The difference from the video slots of land casinos is that players need not be physically present at the slot machine. They can play on their computers by connecting to the online casinos through the Internet. Online Slots are divided into two broad groups. One group is the classic three reel slots and the other group is the video five reel slots. This nomenclature has arisen because Video Slots in land casinos usually have five reels.
Online slots are rich in features. They have wild symbols and scatter symbols that offer increased payout opportunities. Free spins and bonus games allow players to win extra credits without having to stake additional funds. Many Online Slots also offer progressive jackpots. Microgaming, Playtech, Top Game, Cryptologic and Realtime Gaming are leading developers of Online Slots.