The History of Slot Machines: From Mechanical Machines to Online Games

Today, slots are one of the most popular ways to gamble, with online sites featuring thousands of unique and exciting games for you to try out. Modern slots are packed full of interesting bonus rounds, colourful symbols and interesting designs, but it wasn’t always this way. A lot has changed over the past hundred years or so, and slots are no different.

As technology has improved, players have benefitted from a greater number of gaming opportunities, including bigger and better slots. In this article, we’ll be exploring the history of slot machines and looking at what changes have helped turn the one-armed bandit into one of the most popular games of all time.

The Origins of the Slot Machine

In 1891, an early precursor to slot machines was created by Stillman and Pitt of Brooklyn, New York. The device consisted of five spinning drums, each containing ten playing cards. The machine allowed players to enjoy a version of poker, with players inserting a nickel and pulling a lever to start the mechanism.

This early machine would spin its drums much like modern slot machines, and players would be hoping to land a good poker hand in order to win a prize. However, there was no automatic payout mechanism, so those lucky enough to win would need to call the attention of staff. These machines soon became highly popular in bars across the country, and it wasn’t long before innovations were made to this concept.

The nature of poker meant that creating an automatic payout for this type of machine would have been beyond the scope of technology at the time. However, a mechanic named Chris Few came up with a much simpler idea. Living in San Francisco, Fey developed his version of the slot machine somewhere between 1895 and 1897.

Fey’s design used three spinning reels, each containing a total of five symbols. These symbols included horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and the Liberty Bell, from which the machine took its name. The Liberty Bell slot machine was able to automatically payout players if they landed a combination of three symbols, making the device highly successful. It would inspire all later slot machines and continues to influence online slots today, with many slots using the same symbol designs.

Later Slot Developments

The Liberty Bell was the first of a long line of machines that allowed players to gamble real money to win prizes. They quickly became highly popular in casinos and bars, although slots and gambling were often banned across many US states. Here are some of the later developments in the history of the slot machine:

· 1963 – The first electromechanical slot was developed by Bally. Known as Money Honey, this machine could payout up to 500 coins without the help of an attendant and soon became the gold standard for casinos.

· 1976 – The first video slot was created by Fortune Coin Company. The machine used a large colour screen to display virtual reels and quickly found popularity in Las Vegas after it was approved by the Nevada State Gambling Commission.

· 1994 – The first video slot featuring a second screen bonus game was launched in Australia, with Three Bags Full. This would lead to the creation of more complex games with high-paying bonus rounds, such as free spins.

· 1998 – Microgaming developed the first ever online progressive jackpot slot, Cash Splash, which was quickly published on multiple online casinos.

The Evolution of Online Slots

The first-ever online casinos began to go live in the mid-90s, and several developers began creating gaming software for them. Improvements in technology and greater competition between software providers have meant that games have been getting better and better each year.

Online slots remain highly popular among different age categories with most recent casinos offering slot fans profitable options.

While early slots were based on the classic slot machines of old with three reels and classic symbols, newer games can feature lots more reels plus hundreds of different paylines. Almost all modern online slots also include bonus rounds, either offering free spins, jackpots or some other bonus to make their game more exciting.

Here are some common online slot bonus features you might come across:

Free spinsUnlock a certain number of free spins, usually by landing scatters. Some free spins rounds come with other bonus features to make winnings bigger.
WildsWilds substitute for other symbols, helping you form wins. Some games feature special wilds that expand, nudge, or multiplier wins.
MultipliersMultipliers are applied to your win, increasing your payout.
Cascade winsWhen you win during a cascade feature, the winning symbols are removed, and new ones fall to take their place, potentially creating chain reactions.
Expanding reelsExpanding reels add even more symbols into the game, increasing the number of ways to win.

Final Thoughts

Technology has changed many aspects of society over the years, and its allowed slots to become better than ever. Modern games might be based on the original slot machine that was created in 1891, but they’re very different in how they’re played. You can enjoy thousands of exciting slots when playing online, with loads of different genres and styles available to choose from.