The History of the Slot Machine


Slot machines have a history as colorful as the symbols that appear on their spinning reels. From the simple mechanical machines created 140 years ago by Charles Fey, to the sophisticated online gambling slot machines at companies like All Slots On-line Casino, slots continue to be popular, fun and exciting.

The Founder of Slot Machines – Charles Fey

With more than a decade of research and development dedicated toward working around the technical limitations of the day, Charles Fey was definitely the right man for the job. The problems he faced in building the first machines were numerous. How to have the mechanical devices stand up over time, under such heavy use? How to have the machine detect whether it was receiving a real or fake nickel? These and many other problems were solved, leading to the slot machine industry as we know it today.

Fey built the first prototype for a slot machine in 1870. It had three wheels and paid out varying prizes for winning number combinations. Fey later developed a popular machine called 4-11-44, which paid out the highest prize for that number combination.

In 1896, Fey opened a factory to manufacture and sell his machines. He made several models with sound and flashing lights, the most famous being the Liberty Bell, which ushered in what we know today as slots. The machine had ten symbols on each independent wheel.

Fey rented his machines out to casinos for a share of the profits, with terms that included servicing non-working machines and replacing broken ones, creating the first casino franchise.

The name “one armed bandit” came from the first machines odds being so tilted in favor of the house. This name however does not apply today. Odds are much better for the gambler with the best being today’s online gambling slots, offering as little as 0.5% house edge.

In 1901, Fey introduced the first draw poker machine. Although he was unsure about its prospects, video poker slots have become one of the most popular types of machines, the world over.

Demand for Slot Machines Grows

By 1905, the slots industry was in full swing, and Fey could not build his Liberty machines fast enough. He was constantly approached by gambling supply manufacturers to purchase the manufacturing and commercialism rights to the Liberty Bell, however he refused. In 1907, Herbert Mills, a Chicago manufacturer, created a knock-off of the Liberty machine that placed fruits instead of symbols on the slots. Soon the machine rivaled the popularity of the Liberty Bell.

Electro-mechanical and computerized machines

Electro-mechanical slot machines were introduced in 1946. They were more precise, broke down less and required less maintenance. Because of their reduced costs, casinos were able to improve player’s odds of winning.

Today’s computerized slot machines are actually very sophisticated computers, with a predetermined randomization of slot machines’ results. All data from these machines is monitored and reported, and odds of winning and payouts can be adjusted on the fly and remotely.

Slot machines have come a long way from the purely mechanical boxes they were 150 years ago. Today, they are incredibly high-tech, with touch screens and payment systems that no longer require the use of actual coins. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your house if you want to play slots these days. Just open your PC or phone, and go to your favorite online casino. But even though throughout slots history, there have been many changes to the machines, the basic rules for winning remains the same.