Slot machines have a long and storied history that spans over 100 years and, in fact, 2024 marks the 130th anniversary of the first-ever slot machine game. That makes them older than vacuum cleaners!
Since then, they have become the most popular and iconic way to play, both in land-based casinos and online. Here, we uncover the evolution of the slot machine, from 1894 to the modern slots of today.
Origin of Slots: Where It All Began
That’s right, the origin of slots starts in the 1890s, the later years of the Wild West. As railways and telegraph lines snaked across America, modern civilization took hold of the frontier. With this came more travel, tourism, and an increasing demand for entertainment. This was before movies had taken off – Hollywood wouldn’t be around for another three decades yet.
So, businesses across America relied on coin-operated machine games instead. Early forms of these games held cards and challenged players to make a winning hand. If they won, they were awarded sweets, souvenirs, or free services wherever the machine was installed.
1894: Liberty Bell, The First Slot Machine Invented
Considered the first slot machine, the Liberty Bell was unveiled in 1894 by Charles Fey. Featuring a single winline and three basic reels, the Liberty Bell became an instant hit, the world’s most famous of its kind. It’s also why classic slots of today, have a bell symbol on them. It wasn’t just about aesthetics – it was also one of the first automated reward machines.
1907: Operator Bell
Like with any great invention, imitators and innovators rushed to improve Fey’s designs. Named in honor of the Liberty Bell, the Operator Bell was created in 1907 by Herbert Mills, a manufacturer in Chicago. It dispensed gum and sweets, so the symbols were changed to fruits instead of card values. Like with the bell, fruits on slot machines became iconic of casino culture.
1964: Money Honey, The First Fully Electromechanical Slot
The Bell machines reigned supreme until the ‘60s, when electromechanical innovations were incorporated into one-armed bandit design. The Bally Manufacturing Co., a pinball company once again based out of Chicago, did this first with the Money Honey machine of ’64. The arm was still mechanical and made that satisfying thunk sound, while the reels used electricity to spin faster and smoother than ever before.
1976: Video Slot Machines
A decade later, the first video slots entered the scene thanks to the Fortune Coin Company. Based out of Vegas (where else?) the company modified Sony CRT TVs from the time, then unveiled them as exclusive entertainment for the Las Vegas Hilton hotel. That didn’t last long – these entirely-electric slot machines took over Vegas and Nevada as a whole – further putting both city and state on the map.
1986: The Progressive Jackpot
Having reached a plateau in terms of technological innovation, ‘80s designers instead changed the rules of the game. This is how progressive jackpots came to be, when IGT came out with Megabucks in ‘86. It was simple – every spin increased the pot until somebody landed the lucky combination. In places with multiple machines, they would be linked together for one big jackpot.
1996: Introduction to Online Slots
Another decade later, the technological slump was broken by one of the biggest inventions in human history – the internet. This is where we come across familiar names like Microgaming, who were responsible for the first-ever online casino in ‘96. Its first games included their own Cash Splash game and Reel ‘Em In, from WMS Industries.
2005: Mobile Slots
That brings us to 2005, 111 years since Fey’s Liberty Bell. After some failed attempts at smartphones by Nokia in the late ‘90s, it was the mid-2000s where mobile slots took off. Popular new Nokia and BlackBerry models could access the internet and the games on it. Most of this play was for fun, until 2008 when the first Apple iOS and Android smartphones entered the scene.
With the internet taking over the world in the 2010s, we saw the rise of the iGaming industry. Through increased desktop and mobile internet access, millions could enjoy online slot machines at the touch of a screen. With this came an explosion of different colorful themes and advanced play mechanics like Megaways and advanced bonuses features. The modern iGaming industry is something that inventors like Charles Fey could never have imagined!
Play Online Slots at McLuck.com
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Every month, so many new games get released with different themes and features that continue to innovate on those old coin-operated machines. Check out the games on our site to see how far we’ve come!
When were slot machines invented?
The first slot machine was invented in 1894. Before that, similar coin-operated machines were invented in 1883, dispensing postcards and paper.
Who invented the slot machine?
A Bavarian-born inventor, Charles Fey is credited for inventing the slot machine. He had help, primarily from business partner Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Schultze and his Horseshoe prototype.
How did old slot machines work?
They were quite simple – you inserted a coin or ticket, pulled on a stubborn lever, then watched as the reels clunked into place, controlled by gears and other mechanical pieces.
What coin did the first slot machine take?
Just like the original coin-operated machines, the first coins taken by the Liberty Bell and other slot machines were nickels – five-cent coins.
What did the first slot machine look like?
The Liberty Bell was a shiny black box standing on silver claw furniture feet. It had a silver lever, a wintable stamped on front, and three reels including bell symbols.
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