The Evolution of Slots

The buzz and whirl of slots, or fruit machines as they are known in Great Britain, are inseparable parts of the ambience of the casino floor. Walk into any brick-and-mortar casino, and you are guaranteed to see at least several slot machines, with some of the larger gambling venues housing hundreds of them. The same goes for online casinos where you will find hundreds, even thousands of slot varieties.

In some parts of the world, the popularity of slots surpasses that of all other casino games combined. There are several reasons for this phenomenon. Slots are easy and very affordable to play, not to mention you can hit a life-changing payout with a small bet.

Modern online slots offer more engaging and entertaining gameplay due to their superior animations, special symbols, and bonus features. However, the first slot prototypes appeared long before the invention of computers and relied on mechanics to work. Let’s have a closer look at who invented this game and how it has evolved over the years.

The Prototypes of the First Slots

There are two accounts as to who developed the original prototype of the slot machine. One is that Charles Fey's Liberty Bell was the first device of this kind. The other is that New York-based company Sittman and Pitt manufactured a similar machine before Fey created his Liberty Bell.

A San Francisco Mechanic Creates the Liberty Bell
Herbert Mills and His Operator Bell
The Introduction of the Bar Symbol and Other Improvements

Bally and IGT's Contribution to Slot Development

Right until the middle of the 20th century, slot machines operated on a purely mechanical principle. The player inserted a coin and pulled a lever to make the reels spin. The machines contained springs, which caused the reels to gradually come to a halt. This created the illusion that players have control over the outcome, which further boosted the popularity of slots.

The 1950s saw the introduction of the first electromechanical slot machines. These were more advanced games with different paytables and multipliers where the prizes were proportionate to the number of coins players inserted into the machine.

Two of the manufacturers with the greatest contribution toward further slot improvement are Bally Technologies and International Game Technology (IGT).

Bally Takes Slot Machines to a New Level
IGT Enters the Slot Manufacturing Scene

The Advent of Video Slots

1Virtual instead of physical reels

The early 1980s were the beginning of a new era in slot-machine manufacturing. This is when the first video slots hit the floors of landbased casinos. Many players approached them with suspicion and were disturbed by the fact they used virtual instead of physical reels.

The games underwent some modifications to prevent cheating and were eventually approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Commission. Subsequently, they became a massive success among casino goers, giving them a greater variety of options.

2Accept banknotes

The new machines could accept banknotes so that players no longer had to carry around small change. This enabled them to play for longer periods, without interrupting their spinning sessions to exchange banknotes for coins.

3Wide-area progressive jackpots

The computerization of slot machines also worked to the advantage of gambling operators. It enabled them to experiment with different designs, themes, and payout variations. Wide-area progressive jackpots became reality with the introduction of the Megabucks slot by IGT in 1986. Machines at different landbased casinos were connected in a network. This allowed for the accumulation of multi-million cash prizes.

4Bonus games

Bonus games were added to further increase the entertainment value of slot machines. A company by the name of Anchor Gaming licensed its Wheel of Gold creation to IGT. The Reno-based company later obtained a license from the creators of the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune and launched a slot with the same theme. The Wheel of Fortune slot remains one of the most popular games by IGT to this day.

5Multiple paylines

Slots with multiple paylines began to appear in the mid-1990s, with WMS being one of the leading developers to carve a niche for such slots.

Online and Mobile Slots

Online Slots

Mobile Slots

The rise of online gambling in the mid-1990s allowed slots to transition from the landbased casino floors to the screens of spinners’ desktop computers. The games whose availability was previously restricted to casino floors, bars, and saloons are now readily available to anyone with a computer and a reliable internet connection.

Microgaming is among the pioneers in gambling software development. It presently boasts the largest selection of online slots. The early slot releases were less advanced from a graphics perspective but have greatly evolved over the last two decades.

Today’s online slots boast highly realistic 3D graphics and animations, exciting bonus features, and a range of special symbols that increase their winning potential. The creations of software studios like Yggdrasil, Betsoft, Pragmatic Play, Playtech, and NetEnt are particularly impressive in terms of graphic presentation and gameplay.

The beauty of playing slots online stems from the enormous choice players are facing. There are classic slots, slots with multiple paylines, slots that pay for matching symbols on neighboring reels, and progressives capable of dropping seven-figure prizes.

View more...

Summary of Key Improvements in Slot Machines

Slots have gone a long way since Charles Fey first devised his famed Liberty Bell machine. New advances in technology will surely bring more innovations to slot players. We can only wait and see what the future holds for reel spinners. For the time being, here is a summary of some of the most important improvements slot machines have seen over the last century.

Coin hopper
Progressive jackpots
Multiple paylines
Bill validators
Virtual reels
Ticket printers