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Slot Machines History

The original slot machines were also known as one armed bandits or fruit machines. Some people still refer to slot machines by these other names even though, more often than not, they do not have an “arm” to pull, but a button to push, and they may or may not have any pictures of fruit on the reels.

The predecessor of the slot machine was created in 1891 in Brooklyn, New York. It was designed by the Sittman and Pitt Company. This slot machine had five drums which held fifty cards. After inserting a nickel into the slot, the lever was pulled and the wheels spun. Winning was based on what kind of poker hand lined up on the display when the wheels had stopped spinning. The payout was not in the form of money, but in the form of prizes from the bar it was located in. A winner would have won a free drink or perhaps cigarettes.

Charles Fey, a name synonymous with modern day slot machines, was a German immigrant to the US who first lived in New Jersey and then later moved to California. Fey created the Liberty Bell slot machine in San Francisco. It consisted of three reels and twenty symbols. Players placed a 5 cent bet and payouts differed according to what symbols lined up when the reels stopped spinning. For example, two coins for two horseshoes and perhaps twenty coins for lining up three bells.

In 1907, Fey joined with the Mills Novelty Company. Their version was called the Mills Liberty Bell. In 1910, they improved on this model and called it the Operator Bell. This is when fruit symbols were introduced.

In the 1930s, the slot machines were made quieter (for example, bells were removed), and lighter (made out of wood instead of iron). The slot machine exteriors were made more attractive for the players.

In the 1940s, with popularity increasing steadily, many casinos installed slot machines.

By the 1950s, the old mechanical slot machines were mostly done away with, and electro-mechanical machines became popular. It was possible to make slot machines with more reels, more symbols, and they could accept larger coin denominations.

In the 1980s, computerized video poker slot machines were introduced. This brings us to our present day slots, which are all computer generated. The symbols are chosen by RNG (random number generators). The choices available for variations on the basic theme are almost endless when using computerized slot machines.

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