April 24, 2018

Bitcasino Guide: The History of Slot Machines

History of Slot Machines and How They Work

These days, millions of people from all over the world get a lot of pleasure out of playing slot machines and many casino visitors see this as the most appealing way to win a jackpot prize.

Yet, have you ever wondered about the history of slot machines and how they work? These games are now such a big part of our lives that it is difficult to even imagine the world without them.

It turns out that the slot machine has been around for far longer than many people think, with a long and interesting history for us to look into.


The First Slot Machine

The man who is credited with creating the first ever slots game was called Charles Fey. This San Francisco inventor and car mechanic came up with a machine called the Liberty Bell at the end of the 19th century.

Interestingly, this very early slot machine can be seen on display in the Liberty Belle Salon in Nevada. It featured three reels with symbols such as diamonds, hearts, stars and spades, as well as a Liberty Bell.

While this gaming device looks rather dated now, it is interesting to see how it incorporates many of the features that are still present in most modern day slots. The player operated it by pulling a lever and, if they got three identical images, then a ringing bell announced their good luck.

Things have moved on a lot since then but the Liberty Bell machine played a very important role in the history of slots machines and how they work.

The Early Days of the Slot Machine

As you can imagine, the arrival of the first ever slots games was exciting news back then. People flocked to try them out and look to win some money.

Even a ban in some American states didn’t stop the public from getting a chance to try and get a winning combination. To get around the new laws, players would win whatever object was on the reels instead of money. This meant that the prizes included pieces of candy and fruit among other things.

One of the impacts of this way of rewarding winners is that the slots began to get called fruit machines, a name that many people still use for them today. This also results in fruits being among the most popular symbols that we see in many games even now. Even the BAR symbol can be traced back to this time, as it was a logo used by the Bell-Fruit Gum Company.

The earliest slot machines were completely mechanical in nature. This meant that a player worked them by pulling on a lever and setting the reels spinning around. This way of working it gave rise to another popular name for slots; one-armed bandits.


More Modern Slot Machine Technology

There seems to be little doubt that the early, mechanical slots were tremendous fun to play and also very popular. The fact is that it took a long time for investors to come up with a better way of making these games than the original mechanical approach.

Eventually, though, electromechnical slots came along, although it took until the 1960s for this happen. The device that is commonly credited as being the first of this type was called Money Honey and was made by Bally. This was the first slot that could automatically pay out 500 coins and it quickly became very popular.

After this, the Fortune Coin Co came up with the first video slot. This was a game that used a 19-inch screen and was trialled in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel in the mid-1970s.

The improvements in the technology used meant that bigger stakes could be made and bigger jackpots claimed. Indeed, the arrival of the random number generator meant a completely fair outcome as well as the possibility of progressive jackpots being paid out.

The Arrival of Online Slots

Slot machines have long been a hugely popular part of any land casino. However, when online casinos appeared in the 1990s it moved these games to a new level.

For a start, people who had never stepped inside a casino in their lives could now try out slots for the first time. It also meant that players could pop in and play as little or as much as they wanted to at any time of day or night.

The huge number of players trying their hand at these online slots also meant that developers and casinos were able to introduce bigger jackpots, including massive progressive jackpots.

The popularity of sites such as Bitcasino means that it is now very easy to access a slot machine whenever it suits you. You can play from the comfort of your own home or else give the reels a spin wherever you are by accessing the site on your mobile device.

Another piece of great news for players in recent times is that the selection of slots has grown massively thanks to online playing. You can now enter our site and choose from dozens of fabulous games.

It is all a long way from the early days of the Liberty Bell slot but the most modern games still retain the timeless thrill of the very first slot machine. It’s just that they’ve added a modern twist to it with stylish graphics, captivating themes and even amusing animated sequences to make them more enjoyable.

How They Work

As we have seen so far in our look at the history of slot machines and how they work, modern games now use a random number generator. But how does this actually work and what does it mean for your chances of winning?

Slot games now take into account highly complex mathematics to produce a fair result every single time that you put the reels into motion. For instance, it will be programmed to be consistent in producing certain symbols with more regularity than others.

When creating a new game, the programmers give it a set payback or Return To Player (RTP) figure of close to 100%, which is how much of the money fed into it with be paid back to the user. Theoretically, if you play it long enough, then this is how much you should get back out of your stake.

However, in real life, you simply never know if you are going to win far more than you put in or end up with less luck. This is because other players who are also spinning the same reels at the same time might win more or less than you do.

How the Features Work

One of the most attractive elements of modern online slots is that they tend to offer a range of interesting features. These features can help you to win more while also making the game more interesting to play at the same time.

While bonus features existed in physical slot machine games in the past, the infinite possibilities offered by internet slots mean that there are now far more of them. In the past, nudges and holds were among the most exciting features but they have now replaced by a number of other great additions.

  • Wild symbols. One of the classic ways to win is with a wild symbol. This is an image that will replace any other symbol apart from the scatter. It may simply say “wild” on it or it may be a picture of the main character or theme. As we will see below, there are now some electrifying variations on this feature. You will find wilds on just about every online slot.
  • Expanding wilds. This kind of wild is always very welcome on your reels. This is because it will expand to cover a number of spaces on the screen, giving you more chances of a win. The moment when the expanding wild appears is often the most exciting element of any slot machine, as it fills the screen during an animated sequence.
  • Sticky wilds. This kind of wild gives you more chances to win, as it stays on the reel during at least one extra spin. In this way, the other reels spin around but this wild stays in place to guarantee you at least one wild in your next combination.
  • Stacked wilds. In this case, a magnificent tower of 2, 3 or more stacked wilds will give you a great chance of picking up a big win. In fact, stacked wilds can sometimes give you the game’s biggest pay-out.
  • Walking wilds. Another relatively recent addition to the list of slot machine features, walking wilds move across the screen to enhance your chances of getting a win. They might not sound as exciting as some of the other wild features but they can come in very handy at times.
  • Scatter symbols. Free spins are a mainstay of many online slots and they are usually won thanks to the game’s scatter symbols. When you get three of these or more anywhere on the reels you can expect to be awarded a set of free spins. Get four or five of them for even more free spins, which can often be re-triggered by getting them again.
  • Multipliers. A multiplier can give you a far better and bigger win than the standard pay-out. They are often linked to the free spins, meaning that, for every free game you play, any win will be doubled, trebled or will benefit from an even bigger multiplier. This is one of the reasons why free spins can be so rewarding.
  • Bonus rounds. Extra bonus rounds will vary from one game to another. Some give you the chance to pick a certain object to claim a prize, while others see you progress through the game’s story or setting.
  • Bigger reels. At the start of this article about the history of slot machines and how they work, we saw that the first machine had three reels with only the winning payline on show. These days, many games have 5 reels with 3 or more rows on them. More symbols on show doesn’t necessarily mean a better chance of winning but it can make it more exciting to play.
  • Extra set of reels. Some modern games even use an extra set of reels to crank up the tension and increase the thrills even more. This is something that may kick in after a certain type of win and it certainly adds something special to any game that has it.
  • Gamble feature.> This is usually a simple feature that lets you attempt to double your winnings after getting a good combination on a payline. It will involve you simply choosing a card and either getting double your win or losing it. Playing the gamble feature is entirely optional.
  • Winning symbols replaced. One of the best ways to keep the good times rolling is to get your winning symbols replaced with others. This gives you a second chance at winning and it can happen when the symbols either explode or drop off the screen.
  • Split symbols. This isn’t such a common feature but you might see it now and then. Split symbols occur when a reel has two different symbols on one of its rows. This gives you an extra chance to win.


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