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Invention Story of Slot Machines

Written By: 

Samidha Verma



Have you ever thought who could be the father of the glorious machines that make most of the casino revenues these days? A casino owner, a researcher, a young lad interested in gambling? None of these. It was a car mechanic who changed the face of gambling entertainment.


Image of SLot Machine

Fig. 1: Image of Slot Machine


Charles Fey from San Francisco came up with the first ever slot machine in the year 1887.     

Until 20th century term ‘slot machines’ was used not just to address gambling devices but also the automatic vending machines. These machines were called by unusual named like one armed bandit and fruit machine. Before your imagination starts running wild with the names, let me tell you that it is because prior to Fey’s invention, there were some poker machines that allowed the users to win free drinks or cigars on hitting the winning combination. These were also known as trade simulators because they paid winners in merchandise.
Fey’s machine was revolutionary because it was designed to pay out coins. His gambling revolution - Bell Machine consisted of three reels and each of them had around 10 symbols printed on it starting from diamonds, spades, hearts, bells, horseshoes etc. And with his Liberty Bell Machine, mania of slot machines was initiated in April 1887.
This was just the beginning; in a span of five years, Fey came up with the descendant of Liberty and called it "4-11-44" which allowed one to win 5 dollars as maximum winning combination. After this machine became a huge success, he upgraded from small trading to the factory production.  He also introduced Card Bell in his successive years and further improved it in year 1899. He added a Star symbol and made the maximum wining prize 20 dimes with three bell combinations in this new avatar.
By 1910, slot machines had gained popularity at many places. Company named Mills Novelty made some alterations to the Liberty Bell’s design and renamed it as Operator Bell. This new avatar had tight neck for putting in the coins and also had fruit symbols which were missing in the earlier ones. Soon the company tasted success and started producing its variants and by the time World War 1 occurred, it had covered Europe with its factories producing upto 30,000 such machines.
Soon cast iron slot machines became outdated and Mills came up with slot machines with wooden cabinets in early 1930.  With passing time, the company made many alterations to its machines and marked another revolution in the gambling industry. Latest wave was double jackpot machines that allowed the users to win twice in the quick succession became a fad. Because these machines were much quieter than the earlier generation, they came to be known as Silent Bell(s).  Not only were these quieter but a lot jazzier. New themed cabinet designs – War Eagle, Roman Head, Lion Head, and Castle Front were introduced by 1933. Slot machine fever grew on people by 1960.
Bally, known manufacturer of pinball machines started producing slot machine(s) – Money Honey in 1964. Electricity backup, latest sound effects, multi coined, with hopper – the newbie was certainly a rage in the gambling industry.  And as time went by, the innovations at Bally reached new heights. They added more gambling machines that had bigger hoppers, additional reels and eventually introduced a slot machine that had a hopper big enough to hold dollar coins. This gave users a chance to hit bigger jackpots.
By the time gambling became legalized in Atlantic City in 1978, Bally was dominating around 90% of the gambling machine market. And this was not it. Bally knew how to fetch money out of the booming gambling industry. The company kept adding reels which certainly decreased chances of winning but added to the jackpot amount. Increased number of symbols on the reel from 10 to 25 now raised the wagers and games could be played at $5, $25 and $100.
And soon the company hired the computer programmer who made sure that jackpot size increased without giving away the profits of the company. With use of a computer program, this engineer named Inge Telnaus gave a makeover to the slot machines. He made use of a random number’s generator that cycled on the imaginary reels. These reels had the capacity to radically change the winning amounts. Due to this generator, the slot machines got ushered into a new age and produced many opportunities for the casino owners as well as the gamers.
Since then there has been no turning back. Slot machines have become an indispensible part of the gambling industry. They have certainly come a long from when they were first introduced by Charles Fey. Now not only can one go and indulge in one of the favorite casino pastime but can also enjoy these games sitting at home with the option of online casinos. Years of research as well as development has given the gripping gambling experience.