History of Slots - The Origins of Online Slots

A look at the origins of slots, how slots developed into electro-mechanical slots and then became video slots and online slots.

The Origin of Slots

The first slot machine was invented by Charles Fey in California. The year was 1887, almost a century and a half ago. The machine was a purely mechanical one. It had three reels. Five symbols were distributed on the slots. These were horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and the Liberty Bells. The jackpot payout was given when each reel showed a Liberty Bell. Therefore this slot machine was named the Liberty Bell.

Another historically important slot machine was designed by the Bell Fruit Gum Company. This machine gave out fruit flavored chewing gums as prizes. The fruit used for flavoring the gums were represented as the symbols. These fruit symbols have endured and the cherry and the orange are perhaps the commonest symbols used in casino slots.

Early on the slot machines earned the nickname of one-armed bandit. The lever extending from the body of the machine, which was used to operate the machine, looked like an extended arm. And players lost money at the machines. Hence the name one-armed bandit was very appropriate.

Though today slots earnings contribute significantly to casino revenues, the initial purpose of installing the machines was quite different. They were installed so that the wives and girlfriends had something to do while their men were playing blackjack or poker.

Electromechanical Slots

The mechanical slots had moving parts that were activated by the lever and therefore there was lot of wear and tear. By the middle of the twentieth century practically everything worked on electricity, so why not slots. In 1964 Bally Manufacturing was the first to produce a slots machine that ran on electricity. It was appropriately called Money Honey. Many parts such as springs were replaced by electronic components but it still involved mechanical rotation of the reels. Hence such machines were called electromechanical slots.

The use of electricity allowed the addition of several additional features. The most fascinating were the sound and light effects. Lights blinked when the reels were spinning and bells clanged when a jackpot was won. The possibility of betting multiple coins was also introduced in electromechanical slots.

Video Slots

By the 1970s personal computers were beginning to make an entry and software for different applications was being developed. One such application was slots. In 1975 the first purely electronic slot machine was invented by Walt Fraley. This machine had no moving parts and could be played on a video screen. Soon these slots came to be known as video slots. Fraley’s slot machine was named Fortune Coin. A computer program known as a random number generator was used to produce the combination of symbols instead of spinning reels.

Initially there was considerable resistance to video slots because players felt that the software was rigged. But International Gaming Technology introduced a regimen of auditing and certification and slowly the video slots started replacing the electromechanical slots in casinos and malls. With the development of Internet technology video slots can now be played in online casinos from homes. Video slots can also be played on mobile phones.