Slots – a brief history – Slot machines are among the most popular and iconic options when it comes to playing games in casinos. Whether you play in a land-based casino, or online, slots form the backbone of the gambling experience. Super simple and easy to play, it’s great fun, not to mention the prospect of winning some cash! But many people don’t know about the origins and development of slot machines – they have come a long, long way since they first appeared in the late nineteenth century. Known particularly in the UK as fruit machines, and colloquially as the one-armed bandit, they have an interesting history. Let’s take a closer look at it.
The first mechanical slot machine was invented in 1895 by Charles Fey, and was named the Liberty Bell. While this was predated by the automatic poker machine by Sittman and Pitt, Fey’s invention is more recognizable as an ancestor of the modern slot machine. The Liberty Bell took the USA by storm, beginning in San Francisco where it was first made. The machine had three wheels which featured hearts, spades and diamonds, and of course, liberty bells. Fey went on to design and produce several more mechanical gambling machines, and would rent them to bars and other establishments for a split of the profits. When he refused to sell the rights to the machines, other knock-off slot machines started to appear, including the Operator Bell which emerged from Chicago in 1907 and was the first to feature fruit symbols alongside playing cards.
By the 1960s, new technology was becoming available and the trusty old mechanical slot machine was given a drastic overhaul. During that decade the first electromechanical slot machines were developed, the most famous being the Money Honey. This machine still featured the lever (the ‘arm’ of the one-armed bandit) but all the components were moved electronically within the device. In 1976, the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas introduced a fully electric slot machine, quickly adopted in all the hotels and casinos on the strip. These machines were reminiscent of casino slots today, in that they offered more features and choices for players to make. Many of these machines made use of TV screens to enhance the slot machine experience for gamblers. They dominated the scene for the next two decades.
When high-speed internet became more prevalent during the 1990s, slot machines were radically overhauled again. In terms of casino gambling in general, blackjack and roulette were easier to develop, but as the technology became available, slot machines started to develop that could match the graphics, content and gaming options available in land-based casinos. At first online casino slots were extremely similar to the Vegas slot machines in terms of layout and gameplay, but as they rose in prominence and popularity, game developers started to get more creative. Themed slots began to take off, and before long, thousands of themes were available to play, with different styles of gameplay, prizes, and bonuses. The appeal of slots began to widen, attracting players who may have never set foot in a brick and mortar casino before, as well as those who live remotely or are less mobile.
Online slots are among the most popular games available on the internet. Many online casinos (and land-based ones that have taken their brand online) are now tailored towards mobile users, such is the dominance and ubiquity of smartphones and tablets. Gameplay is getting more and more intricate, often with different levels, storylines, ever more elaborate themes and much more. Players can enjoy slots from the comfort of their own homes, or even on the go.
Slots are getting more and more futuristic. As technology develops, smartphones and tablets become more advanced and wireless internet, 4G and 5G are widespread, the online gambling industry comes on leaps and bounds. Slots are beginning to make use of 3D graphics and animation. Virtual reality casinos are not yet widespread, but as the hardware needed becomes more affordable you can bet that they will surge in popularity, allowing gamblers to play slots and other casino games in a fully immersive, interactive environment, as well as being able to communicate with other players. The future of slot machines is only limited by game developers’ imaginations.
The history of slot machines is interesting, and their popularity is unwavering. Simplicity is at the root of their timeless appeal, but with new technology propelling them, the future certainly looks bright.