The History Of Slot Machines

Slot machines are without a doubt some of the most popular draws at physical casinos and online ones. The slot machine as we know it was actually started in the 1800s by inventor Charles August Fey. If you’re keen to learn more about their place in history, then do read on!

Early Slot Machines

While there were initially vending machines, which operated similarly to slot machines in the sense bar patrons could wager on an outcome, the payouts of these early machines were usually done as liquor or cigars handed out by the barkeeper, and not money. A popular novelty machine found at saloons in the USA was a toy horse race, where miniature tin horses would ‘run’ after the machine had a coin inserted.

The first modern-equivalent slot machine was created by Charles August Fey in San Francisco, USA. This slot machine was created in 1894 and a second one was made by him the following year. Due to their popularity, Fey left his job and start creating slot machines full time. 

In 1898 he created the first slot machine that had three reels and did automatic cash payouts. It was notable as he had put on the reels a set of playing card suits which would line up to form poker hands. This slot machine was played by pushing a handle down, which would cause the reels to start moving. In 1899 he created his second money-making slot machine which, along with playing card suits, also used horseshoes and bells as icons on the reels. 

Payouts would be done for players who lined up three bells in a row. Unfortunately, due to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, only four out of over 100 slot machines that he created survived. As such, several competitors sprung up with their own versions of slots, based on his designs.

Banned And Outlawed

As slot machines became more popular in the early 1900s, the police, the clergy, and the other oppositional parties who believed slot machines were immoral, worked hard to ban the use of these gambling automated machines. 

In 1909, despite the fact there were over 3,300 slot machines in San Francisco, due to the ban many were no longer being used. Fey and his competitors though were not to be deterred. Instead, they began to create slot machines that no longer had a coin slot built into them. These coinless machines were more surreptitious in saloons and payouts could once more be done in an alternative form of currency, such as cigars and potentially drinks. 

Symbols On Reels

The fruit reel symbols found on slot machines today were first created in 1909. Due to the ban on slot machines in several American states, and the many restrictions that slot machines had, companies began creating slot machines which they called ‘chewing gum’ dispensers and instead of using common cards suits on the reels they used fruit symbols like watermelon, cherries, and lemon – which were to suggest the flavours of chewing gum. 

Interestingly, several of these machines really did dispense gum. They were a hit and competitors quickly cashed in on this strategy and created their own slot machines which added in pictures of different fruits – and some even added in chewing gum packs on their reels. This is where the popularity of fruit reels in slot machines comes from today.

Rise Of The Electric Slot Machines

While popular online casinos like Treasure Mile are known for their wide range of video slot machines, this type of varied RNG-driven online slots we know and love today took a rather long time to come onto the scene. In the 1930s, the world’s very first electric slot machine was created – as those which came before relied on a person to pull the lever, and to oversee the cash payouts. 

The first electric slot, however, took over the payout function, and it would automatically pay out 20 coins to the game winner. It was revolutionary at the time and players enjoyed being able to finally see their winning odds displayed on the screen before they chose to take a turn playing. 

The success of this directly led to the first fully electric slots being created in the 1960s by Bally Blazing. He was an engineer who created the very first slot machine to have electrical components within it to control the reels spinning, as opposed to relying on purely physical mechanics and levers to spin the slot reels. This is the first use of an electronic random number generator (RNG) to determine the slot game outcomes. 

This slot machine also built on its predecessors by also being able to handle payouts, though it could handle much higher sums than its predecessors did. Due to this new and improved slot machine, Bally’s company cemented their position as one of the top slot manufacturers of the time. 

In the 1970s, early video slot machines were created by a team of engineers, led by Walt Fraley, who used a 19-inch Sony Trinitron colour receiver for the video slot display. The first video slot’s onboard computer was a logic board that was also created by the team led by Fraley. While the initial test machines placed in a Vegas casino were not the hit that was expected, they gradually won patrons over. This led to the rise of popularity of the video slots we know and love today!

As it stands, video slots are one of the top choices for players and casino-goers in both brick-and-mortar casinos as well as casinos that can be found online. The slot machine has a timeless appeal with its spinning reels, bells and whistles, and matching symbols, which are easy to play by experienced slot players and newcomers alike. 

The enjoyment gained when the money starts to roll, the fun of seeing what images appear on the reels and playing your favourite book or TV series in a slot form remains a great way to spend an afternoon.