There is a long and fascinating history when it comes to slot machines. Today’s versions are nothing like the original slot machine – known in its day as a ‘one-armed bandit’ – and those who played them then would probably not be able to recognise the games we play today. However, although the slots might look completely different, and although some aspects of gameplay will have changed, the essence of the slot machine is still there, like when gamblers play at easy slots online. But just how have they changed?
At the very start, in the 1880s, the first slot machines didn’t pay out any money; they paid out in tokens for beer or cigars and cigarettes and were much more about two (or sometimes more) people playing a game together.
The Liberty Bell slot machine changed things forever. Charles Fey was the inventor, and this is the machine that we would recognise as being the start of the slot machine industry today. The Liberty Bell slot machine paid out real coins as prizes had three reels, and there were a number of different symbols you could see including cards, bells, and horseshoes. If you got three bells in a row, you would win the highest payout.
These machines became extremely popular, and the love of slot games was born. This was in 1895.
In 1909 the law in American changed, and a gambling ban came into existence. So the machines were changed again, and instead of paying out money they paid out in gum – this is what the ‘bar’ symbol was meant to show.
Even so, despite the changes (which included changing the bells and playing cards into pieces of fruit which would be familiar to players today), there was a decline as there were very few places were slot machines could legally be installed. That’s not to say that no machines were used – many were – but it would all be done on the wrong side of the law.
The Golden Age
When the gambling ban was relaxed after the Second World War (the government realised that there was a lot of money to be made through the taxes on casinos and slots, and money was in short supply after the rigours of war), there was a golden age of slot machines, starting in Las Vegas and spreading out across the rest of the USA and the world.
However, as with anything and everything, people can become bored when everything remains stagnant, and slot machine owners realised that the number of people playing slots was declining. It wasn’t that there wasn’t any money – this was the 1980s when money was everywhere – but that there were other draws on people’s limited time. Computer games were starting to really come into their own, and this is where people wanted to be playing (even if there was no real prize to be won).
Slot machine developers saw where the trends were happening and changed their designs accordingly. The traditional slots with the handles began to be transformed into the machines that might be more familiar at least to the UK public with buttons to press rather than levers to pull.
Not only that, but the graphics started to change. Large video screens replaced traditional reels in an attempt to mimic the games that people were playing at home, and soon enough the popularity of slots grew once more.
And so that brings us to today. Today’s physical slots are highly visual, utilising plenty of graphics and sounds to entice players to them. But now there are also online slots which makes sense; you can do everything else online, so why not play slots?
These games are many and varied, and use the same random number generator systems as the physical games do, making them just as safe and fun to play but they are also much more convenient and easier for those with busy lives to get into.