Slot Machine History and how it was all started by a garage mechanic
The Invention of Charles Fey
Slot machine history tells us that an American living in San Francisco invented the first slot machine back in 1887. Charles Fey was a garage mechanic with incredible foresight.
Charles Fey called it the Liberty Bell, a name which first went down in History when American Independence was declared back in 1776. The Liberty Bell rang out in Pennsylvania just before the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed across the US.
His first slot machine was a mechanical device with three spinning reels using 5 symbols. To win three matching symbols were required in a line. The symbols were diamonds, hearts, horseshoes, spades and the Liberty Bell. The slot machine was made of cast iron with three spinning reels, each later with 10 symbols. The reels were spun by using a lever on the side. If you managed to get three Liberty Bell symbols in a line you won the Jackpot which was 50 cents.
Although gambling was not permitted for a while in California, Charles Fey managed to build a successful business installing his Liberty Bell slot machines all over the US. They became hugely popular in a very short space of time. He placed the slot machine in bars and restaurants on a rental basis giving 50% of the profits to outlet.
We do not know whether Charles Fey had any patents in place in those early days. Slot machine history suggests that due to his success, many gambling suppliers and manufacturers tried to buy the manufacturing and distribution rights to the Liberty Bell. He was on a roll with his business and refused to sell.
Slot Machine History 1900 to 1950
Around the late 1900’s there was a boom in vending machines and various arcade machines, so there was a big market for amusement and gambling machines. The history of slot games was beginning.
Charles Fey retained the market for the slot machine until 1907 when a Chicago based manufacturer of arcade games copied the idea. Herbert Mills produced a machine which he called the Operator Bell. He was the first to use fruit symbols on the reels. Later, in the UK the first slot machine became known as the fruit machine. In the US they were later called one arm bandits. The Bell symbol still remains popular on the slot machine today.
Slot machine history tells us that from this time there was boom in the design and production of mechanical slot machines which appeared in venues all over the US and Europe. Many of those venues were amusement arcades and casinos which were opening up all over the place. Demand for the machines was massive so it was a big market. The term “Penny Arcade” was born as they opened all over the UK, firstly in the holiday resorts.
You might be asking how the design of the slot machine was regulated in terms of payout. Initially is was down to the manufacturers but Gaming Commissions were eventually formed across the US and in the UK. In these early times the control of payout relied on mechanical devices so it was possibly widely abused by making adjustments, to gain the advantage. There were no bona fired random number generators at that time in slot machines. Slot machine payout rate was not regulated.
The mechanical slot machine continued to be developed during the 1930’s and 1940’s without major progress.
Slot Machine History from the 1950’s to the Millennium
Mechanical slot machines did not start getting phased out until 1963 when the first electro mechanical slot machine was invented. Bally developed the first electro mechanical slot machine and it still had a lever on the side for familiarity. It was called the Money Honey and it had the first bottom money hopper for winnings of up to 500 coins. The side lever eventually started getting phased out when illuminated push buttons became more popular.
Now we are at the time when the TV monitors were undergoing much development with the introduction of colour screens. It was not until 1976 when the first video slot machine was developed by Kearney Mesa in California. The slot machine used a Sony Trinitron colour display and it had electronic circuit boards to control the functions. The first machine was installed in the Vegas Hilton Hotel and it was approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission. In 1978 the video technology designed by Kearny Mesa was purchased by IGT (International Gaming Technology). They are now a huge organisation of Gaming designers.
The development of Video slot machines continued with new technology and through the mid 1990’s the second screen which we see today was incorporated. Since then the main developments have been in the graphics displays which have enabled ever more pleasing designs.
Slot Machine Development in the 21st Century
The major advent since the Millennium was the upsurge of many thousands of online casinos which has led to huge Gambling businesses being developed. Today the choice of online slot machines you can play in the comfort of your home using your PC, Tablet or phone is enormous. Some online casinos have more than 400 games to choose from.
Today these online casinos are heavily regulated by Gaming Commissions in the Country where they are Licenced. Rigorous inspections are conducted to ensure fair play. It is much easier to control payout rates with state of the art electronic systems than it was with the old mechanical spinning reels.
Read more posts about interesting gambling history.