If you needed further evidence that your high school history classes failed you, just look at how little you know about the development of the slot machine. Sure, you learned about Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, and Leonardo DaVinci, but what about the inventors that helped make casino gambling what it is today? At CyberCasinoClub.com, we’re about to fill in that unfortunate gap in your book-learnin’. Next time some granny is hogging the best one-armed bandit on the floor, you can bore her out the door with the history of the slot machine.
Picture it: Brooklyn, New York. The year? 1891. Against this sepia-toned backdrop, a company named Sittman & Pitt invented a machine that would soon be found in every dive bar in the Big Apple. Based on poker, the machine invited players to deposit their coins and pull a lever. They stood by breathlessly as five drums filled with playing card faces spun around and around. The machine itself wasn’t able to give a payout for a good hand, so the bars that hosted them would give out free beer for a winning combination. Slot machine historians, if there are such people, credit Sittman & Pitt with inventing the first true precursor to the modern slot machine.
They must share that accolade with a man named Charles Fey, however. On the other side of the U.S., Fey was developing a machine with a very similar mechanism that he could sell to locals in San Francisco. He was faced with a problem, though. He didn’t want to rely on bartenders to dispense the game’s prizes, and the sheer number of potential winning poker hands made automatic payment impossible. He came up with a solution. Instead of using playing cards, he used three reels and five symbols: diamonds, hearts, horseshoes, spades, and a Liberty Bell. The slot machine was born.
The success of Fey’s Liberty Bell machine was so dramatic that manufacturers everywhere wanted a piece of the business. Some early machines played with odd twists on the concept, including a few that paid out in gum rather than coins. The gum was fruit-flavored, matching the pictures on the reels. If you ever wondered why cherries and melons are so commonly associated with slot machines, you now have your answer. Manufacturers used the food prizes to get around gambling laws, but later court cases decided that those should be outlawed as well.
Despite American killjoys, the story of the slot machine carried on. Bally introduced the first electromechanical slot in 1963, moving the industry forward in a big way. Called Money Honey, the game’s construction allowed for bigger payouts that didn’t require getting an attendant involved. People loved the new games, and it wasn’t long before the ubiquitous side lever was no longer strictly necessary. Because they had become so closely associated with the game, though, many manufacturers kept including them.
Arriving just in time for the golden age of arcades, the first video slot machine made its debut in 1976. The Las Vegas based Fortune Coin Co. introduced a game that took advantage of logic boards and a 19-inch Sony Trinitron monitor. It wasn’t long before video slots found enormous popularity in Las Vegas, ushering in a new era of video gambling.
The era of the slot machine isn’t over by a long shot. In the mid-90s, online casinos began offering virtual machines that could be played from the comfort of a home computer. With software companies like Playtech, NetEnt and Microgaming pushing the envelope, there’s no telling what kinds of innovations we’ll see in the coming years.