The Evolution of Slot Machines

The Evolution of Slot Machines

Published Date · May 18, 2023 · Last Updated · Aug. 9, 2023 ·Read Time · 3 mins

Over the years, slots have changed beyond all recognition, from the classic one-armed bandits of the 19th century to the immersive online slots we have today. Let's take a closer look at that journey to now, and speculate as to what the future holds...

The First Slot Machines

From the moment they burst onto the scene in the late 1800s -1887 to be more precise - few would have expected slot machines to be as popular as they are today.

charles fey slot machine

Slots in the 1800s

Charles Fey is the man credited as the inventor of slots, as he devised a game that used the same logic as poker. He created a machine that had three reels filled with symbols such as horseshoes and diamonds, with Liberty Bell being the first slot machine.

At the time, the fruit symbols were lucrative, but cash prizes were initially prohibited and replaced with fruit-flavoured gum.

Were Slots Popular?

Liberty Bell continued to manufacture slot machines during the early 1900s, and gamblers were fascinated by the BAR symbol. Slots took off during this period, with more and more people happy to while away a few hours playing them as they were highly addictive.

Fruit machines took hold across many establishments in the UK. Among the most likely places you could find them were bars, shops, and bowling alleys.

The Development of Slots in the 1900s

For the early part of the 20th Century, slot devices were purely mechanical. They allowed you to exude confidence when you played, and inflated the idea that you could control the game and its outcome.

By the 1960s, the first fully working electromechanical slot was released by slot developers Bally - Money Honey. This slot had a bottomless hopper which would trigger an automatic payout, releasing a maximum win of up to 500 coins. From here, slots began to soar in popularity.

money honey slot

Come the late 1970s, microchip technology paved the way for the development of online slots and the video slot made its debut with the release of Fortune Coin, which was invented by Walt Fraley. Once the internet became more accessible in the mid to late 1990s, this helped spark the rise of the video slot machine.

The year 1996 was a memorable turning point with players tapping into “Reel Em”, which was created by WMS Industries. This was the first video slot machine of its type and it included bonus rounds.

The Move to Online Casinos

As mentioned, the birth of the internet nurtured the growth of slots, with online casinos playing a pivotal role in supporting online slots. From the late 2010s onwards, online casinos have eclipsed land-based casinos.

Slots now come in all forms and guises, and developers have tried to push the boundaries with the types of slots they have produced. The likes of NetEnt, Play'n GO, and Pragmatic Play have made their slots more immersive and user-friendly to make them more appealing to a greater selection of gamblers.

play'n go slots

But slots aren’t just restricted to online use and playing on a desktop. Rather, slot developers have become more inclusive and optimised titles for mobile devices. Indeed, slots have become well optimised, and you will now find online casinos will have fully functioning native apps that are conducive for iOS and Android users - so they can play at their own convenience while on the move.

What Are Some Of The Top Slots To Play?

While some of the newer slots still hold some sway with modern gamblers, some remain enduring classics, and they have captured the hearts and minds of players.

This includes NetEnt creation Starburst, which boasts space-themed visuals, low volatility and a 96% RTP. Gonzo’s Quest, which follows an explorer on his mission to seek out gold, also deserves a mention.

The Future Of Slots

It would be a fair assertion to make that the slots landscape has fundamentally changed over the past couple of hundred years, and they are still changing at an extraordinary rate.

Charles Fey should be commended for his work in bringing slots to the mainstream, but as the baton has been picked up over the years, there have been tweaks and developments to make video slot machines more engaging.

They have become an essential part of the casino fabric. It won’t be long before slots become the go-to option for casino players, especially with technological advancements such as AI, VR, and AR set to play an instrumental role in the layout of slots.


Nosa Omoigui

Content Editor