Did you know that slot machines used to be called ‘one armed bandits’ because they supposedly left players in debt? Luckily the world has changed quite a bit since this term was connected to slot machines, and modern day video slot games, for example, in online casinos have theoretical win probabilities over 95%! But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. Let’s focus on the history of these super exciting beasts!
Whoever came up with the idea to commercialize gambling through slot machines deserves the Nobel Prize in science. Well, as with many new things, slot machines were developed in the U.S. However, there isn’t a strong consensus in terms of pinpointing the exact person or group of inventors who designed the first commonly used slot machine. On the one hand historians credit two gentlemen named Sittman & Pitt, and on the other hand some academics argue that Charles Fey came up with the first version of the slot machine with his ‘Liberty Bell’. Recorded data shows that Charles Fey designed the original, yet arcane concept of slot machines in 1891, and few years later Sittman & Pitt improved the mechanics and invented a better version.
How Did They Work?
Without today’s technology behind them, how did these slot machines work? In Sittman & Pitt’s version the drums (today’s reels) had all 50 cards printed on them. After a player inserted a coin and pulled the lever, the rolls would stop, and in the case of a win the player didn’t win money back from the machine. Rather each venue decided how much each winning hand was worth. For example, two Kings would give a pint of beer, and a full house maybe a cigar. Therefore, each location decided their winnings independently.
Fey’s version simplified the game by replacing cards with different symbols such as horseshoes, spades, hearts and most importantly liberty bells, hence the name ‘Liberty Bell’. Instead of having five drums, Fey’s Liberty Bell had only three, significantly reducing the problem of complexity. In a matter of a few years, Fey could not keep up with production demands, and other companies jumped on the bandwagon. The rest as they say is history.
Slot machines prior to the emergence of online casinos functioned more or less on the same principle, albeit utilizing more electronics than Fey’s Liberty Bell. The first electronic casino slots were introduced in the late 1970’s in, of course, Las Vegas. They quickly became number one choices over blackjack, roulette and other traditional games. These machines are still immensely popular in different casinos, but they are slowly giving way to another wave of “disruptive technology” driven by online casinos.
The Development of Online Slots
The problem with land-based casinos offering slot games is the lack of options. Online casinos, however, are developing dozens of games with different themes. Even better, the theoretical probability of winning is higher in online casinos! Online casinos use an RNG-system (random number generator) to work out complex algorithms, and which ensures the randomness of each online slot game. Therefore, people playing on their laptop, phone or tablet don’t have to worry about foul play.
As you can see we’ve come a long way since the Liberty Bell!