History of slots
Modern-day online casino players have it pretty good when it comes to slots. There is a nearly endless selection to choose from, with different mechanics and bonus features in each. They can have three reels, flexible paylines or none at all, if they’re using one of the newer systems. Then there are the themes; TV shows, Viking warriors and great monarchs are all well represented. Indeed, the quality and the variety has never been better. But it wasn’t always like this. Believe it or not, slots used to both look and play completely differently to the online casino offerings we see now.
In 1895, somewhere in San Francisco, California, a man named Charles Fey invented the first slot machine.
Having worked on electronics and telephones for years, Fey had become something of a mechanical whizz and decided to try his hand at inventing something. The result was the Liberty Bell slot machine, a contraption made up of physical, spinning reels with illustrations of playing cards on them, as well as a cracked Liberty Bell.
Instead of a button, a large lever was used to spin the reels and would require the player to pull it down. The inner workings of the machine would then cause the reels to spin, before gradually slowing to a stop. If the player managed to land three Liberty Bells, they would win a whopping total of 50 cents. Bet you’re glad the values have changed too, right?
The concept quickly took America by storm and the slots became hugely popular, to the point that many States actively started outlawing their use through gambling laws. It came to a head in 1902, but Fey was a clever man and had already devised a workaround. Instead of playing cards, symbols such as fruit and other snacks were used as the illustrations. If you landed a win with these machines, you would receive whatever item was shown in the picture. This is how the term Fruit Machines was popularised, although, strangely, this is now mainly used in the UK.
The Rise of RNG
The pull lever is an iconic feature of the first slot machine iterations, earning the nickname ‘One-Armed Bandit’ in many parts of the US. The clockwork mechanics were built so well that it would take years before they would be rendered obsolete.
However, the technological tide advances constantly and change was always inevitable. It was in the 1960s when the lurch towards fully electronic machines started, with contraptions like ‘Money Honey’ proving hugely popular. Two decades later in the eighties, they became fully electronic and it wasn’t long after that they were running on computer microprocessors. This opened up the value that could be found in the machines as, with more computing power, the machines could handle a much higher volume of funds, both in paying in and out. This might not seem like a massive change, but it paved the way for one of the most instrumental aspects of the digitisation of slots.
Now we’re finally getting to something a modern player would recognise…
The Random Number Generator revolutionised slot technology in many ways and would form the foundations for online slot games. It’s a computer programme specifically made to create random outcomes on a slot machine. The first big change this switch caused was for the iconic lever, as the switch to the generator meant the actual ‘spinning’ only required a simple touch of a button. It also meant that slot providers could offer a wider variety of themes, symbols, and icons, as they wouldn’t have to physically make them for each machine. More paylines were added, extra reels could be found in some and it even led to the progressive jackpot game. This was due to the interconnectivity electrical machines could offer, as the jackpot wasn’t limited to just one slot. It was truly a defining moment in the history of slots.
The Online Move
The nineties were a decade of transformation. The Internet age was fast approaching and everything from the way we manufactured goods to the shows we watched on television went through drastic changes. The world of slots was no exception. It wasn’t the games themselves that made the jump online first, though, it was the casinos. It didn’t take long for the slots to follow and, pretty soon, they were the main attraction.
There are a multitude of advantages online slots have over their physical counterparts. To start with, being able to play the games from any desktop meant that there was a wider player base. However, the biggest changes were reserved for gameplay and mechanics.
While electric machines allowed providers to expand on things like themes and symbols, online slots blew the whole scene wide open. The reels were no longer physical at all, so they weren’t limited by what you could install on a machine. Anything a company could imagine was easily translated onto the slots. Cinematic introductions with a high graphical level were introduced, so too animated symbols that would move on the screen.
There was no need to stick to the old three-reel format anymore either and the variety of payline systems progressed rapidly. Some got rid of reels entirely, instead, utilising mechanics like Cluster Pays, where wins are won from clusters of six or more symbols on a Tetris-like board, or tumbling reels, which would see symbols in a winning combination replaced by new ones after the spin. Essentially, the move to virtual meant that the industry offered the freshest and most innovative products since Fey first developed his Liberty Bell.
Slots at Kerching
So, now you know everything there is to know about the history of slot machines, you might feel like playing one yourself. If so, you’ve come to the right place, as we have a downright amazing selection at Kerching. From classic, themed slots like 7’s to Burn, which are inspired by the original three-reel Liberty Bells, to legendary games like the iconic Cleopatra we’ve got you covered. If you’re new to the site, check out our promotions page to see our latest welcome offer and any more specials we have available.
Please make sure you are practising responsible gambling whenever you play a game at Kerching. When the fun stops, stop. If you have any questions, visit BeGambleAware for free advice. Or you can get in touch with our support at [email protected].