Walk through the door of any casino and the first thing to greet you will be the slot machines. Cross the virtual threshold of any online casino and once again it’ll be the slots that grab your attention.
They tend to be the main feature because they are quite simply very popular. Most will have a few but the bigger venues will have hundreds.
The history of slot machines is quite a long one and as you might expect the origin and who came up with idea is a contentious issue. Generally, there are considered to be two sides to the story.
So let’s look at both of them and you’ll get a good idea of how they developed into the casino game and machine we love to play so much today.
Who invented slot machines?
There are two schools of thought with the answer to this question.
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The Liberty Bell – this was a device invented by Charles Fey in 1887. The machine was a very simple one that had just three reels, and five symbols. One of which was the Liberty Bell, and the reason for the machines name. The other symbols were a heart, a diamond, a spade and a horseshoe.
Sittman and Pitt – these are the heroes of the other story, with Fey’s invention not being developed until 1895. Sittman and Pitt were two Americans who invented a machine that was very loosely based on poker. There were 50 cards that span around on five drums, 10 cards on each. A five card poker hand would be displayed on every spin. The better the poker hand the bigger the prize.
Both machines are, in fact, very similar. For example, players have to pull a lever to start the reels/drums spinning. This action led to a popular name for this type of machine, the one-armed bandit. To play required a coin and a certain amount could be won depending on the final spin.
There were, however, a few differences between the two machines. The machine developed by Sittman and Pitt did not dispense winnings automatically.
The prizes being offered depended on the establishment where the machine was located.
It could be a free beer, cigars or drinks, for example. Whereas the Liberty Bell gave out the winnings automatically.
The five drums and the many different cards of the Sittman and Pitt machine also meant that there could be more winning combinations. More chances of winning meant that it was not quite so popular as the Liberty Bell, at least for the manufacturers. And it was the Liberty Bell that really started the slot machine boom.
How slot machines have evolved
Needless to say, it didn’t take too long for a number of other manufacturers to develop their own versions of the game. And once this started to happen the industry was born.
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As time passed, the basic machine was developed and became more sophisticated. Various developments have been notable in the history of slot machines. One was when a Chicago based manufacturer started using fruit as the symbols. It became somewhat a standard and the name ‘fruit machine’ was adopted.
The first electronic slot machine was eventually developed. Called Money Honey, it made a dramatic change to the industry. Rather than pulling a level, players only had to press a button. It also meant that a number of new features could be added. One such feature was the ‘hold’ feature. Reels could be held while others spun so that players could try for different winning combinations. Another feature was the bottomless hopper with an automatic payout of up to 500 coins. And dispensed with the need for an attendant.
The next development was the introduction of the video slot. Gone were the physical slots only to be replaced by images on a video screen. This development also meant that second screen games could be introduced, featuring additional bonus rounds. Reels could be displayed on another screen and allow for added winning opportunities. From here, the next huge step was the introduction of online casinos.
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Slot machines go virtual
It didn’t take long for hundreds of online casinos to open their virtual doors and the first games to be offered were generally slot games. They are still the most popular online casino game today and there are hundreds of different games to play. They have come on in leaps and bounds since the very basic first inventions and nowadays there are lots of different rules, themes and features. Many now include progressive jackpots which make the games even more exciting and have the potential to make millionaires out of the winners.
The introduction of the Random Number Generator
The first electronic slot machines were powered by microprocessors. The next technological development was the Random Number Generator. This allowed the spinning wheels to be simulated and a totally random outcome for the game. This development led to the rapid decline in one-armed bandits, although there are still plenty around.
It also meant that progressive jackpot slot machines could be introduced because the computerized machines could be linked electronically. Every game played, whenever and wherever the button was pressed could increase the jackpot, growing and growing until some lucky winner takes the ultimate prize.
A reason for slot machines being so popular with casino operators is that the payout percentages are very favourable. Typically, the games are programmed to payout winnings as low as 82%. It can be as much as 98% but it depends on the operator and the jurisdiction. Winning patterns are carefully selected so that the house gets to keep a certain percentage of the money wagered.
The industry has in no way stood still and online slot game developers are constantly introducing new games. All of which improve the game to no end. And they strive to bring punters slot games that are inventive and ultimately unique.
Players can now play multi-reel and multi-line games, some have as many as 100 pay lines. Slot game tournaments are another recent development. Players from around the world can be electronically linked and the goal is to collect more coins than other players. There is even a World Series of Slots, with a prize of $500,000.
Author: James Jones, Content Editor www.slotsexpert.com