Slot Machines: A Trip Through History

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Modern Day Slot Machines 2023

Have you ever taken a moment to contemplate the rich tapestry of the slot machine’s history? The journey from mechanical devices to the modern day online slot games, that are accessible from your smartphone, is fascinating. Join us as we delve into this captivating history, unraveling the stories behind one of the gambling world’s most iconic fixtures.

The Birth of Coin-Operated Amusements

Long before slot machines became the lifeblood of casinos, they were simple coin-operated devices, making their début around the 1880s. These machines were not initially intended for high-stakes gambling but served as novelty attractions in bars. Customers would wager small amounts, often settling for free drinks or small rewards from bar owners.

The Invention of the Slot Machine

Sittman and Pitt, the original pioneers of slot machines, launched their groundbreaking invention in 1887. This first iteration was a mechanical wonder featuring five drums, each containing 50 playing cards. When a coin was inserted, the drums would spin, revealing a hand that resembled those in poker games.

Interestingly, this machine didn’t offer any direct payouts. Instead, winners would receive rewards like a free beer from the bar owner. Two cards were also removed from the standard deck to tilt the odds, making certain winning combinations unattainable.

The Liberty Bell: The First Mechanical Payouts

Fast-forward to 1891, and we meet Charles Fey, a Bavarian immigrant who built upon Sittman and Pitt’s invention. Fey’s machine, the Liberty Bell, marked a monumental moment in slot machine history. It was the first machine to provide mechanical payouts and consisted of three reels adorned with diamonds, spades, and hearts, along with the image of a cracked Liberty Bell.

Liberty Bell Slot Machine
Liberty Bell Slot Machine

Hitting three Liberty Bells in a row offered the grand payout, creating an instant sensation in the gaming world. This invention opened the floodgates for others to follow, each adding unique twists and turns to Fey’s original concept.

The Arrival of the Fruit Machine

Another significant chapter was penned by Herbert Mills, a Chicago-based manufacturer, who introduced the Operator Bell. This machine dispensed fruit-flavored gum instead of cash payouts, skirting around the laws of the time that prohibited cash-based machines. It was a cunning move that gave birth to the term “fruit machine” and introduced the famous bar symbol based on the company logo.

The Electromechanical Breakthrough

In the post-war era, Bally, originally a pinball manufacturing company, revolutionized the slot machine landscape. Their 1964 model, Money Honey, was the world’s first electromechanical slot machine. It maintained the traditional arm pull mechanism, but modernized the internal workings to rely on electrical operations. This innovation was a significant step forward, offering larger payouts and a smoother user experience.

The Video Slot Revolution

The arrival of video games, sparked by the release of Atari’s Pong, set the stage for a blend between video games and slots. In 1976, Fortune Coin Company introduced the first video slot machine, which featured a 19-inch Sony CRT television as its display. After gaining approval from the Nevada State Gaming Commission, it took the Vegas strip by storm.

Progressive Jackpots: Megabucks and Beyond

The introduction of the progressive jackpot in 1986 was yet another game-changing moment. Machines across casinos were interconnected to contribute to a grand jackpot, which grew incrementally with each game played but not won. The first of its kind was Megabucks by IGT, and the concept remains wildly popular to this day.

The Digital Age

Online slots came into the limelight in the mid-1990s, thanks to the pioneering efforts of companies like Microgaming. The gaming experience was further enriched by the introduction of second-screen bonus rounds, a concept brought to life by WMS Industries in 1996. With the advent of smartphones running on iOS and Android, the transition from physical casinos to mobile platforms was inevitable.

A Journey from Mechanical to Digital Mastery

The evolution of slot machines is a riveting tale, full of innovation and ingenuity. From the humble beginnings of coin-operated novelty devices in the 1880s bars to the sophisticated online platforms of today, slots have continually adapted to the changing times, capturing the imagination of generations of gamblers.


The Liberty Bell, invented by Charles Fey in 1891, was the first machine to offer mechanical payouts.

The term originated from the Operator Bell machine, which dispensed fruit-flavored gum as prizes.

The first online slot was developed by Microgaming in the mid-1990s, marking the beginning of the online gaming era.