Slots – A Dominant Force Through the Ages

From humble origins, the slot machine has been through numerous iterations in its nearly 130-year history, from mechanical machines to the hi-tech online slots enjoyed by millions every day in online casinos around the world. Always a popular option for gamblers, the simple premise allows players the chance to enjoy gambling games without having to learn many rules or tactics. 

That said, modern online slots have taken advantage of advancements in mobile hardware and software to add layers of complexity to the simple format, allowing for advanced gameplay and immersive graphics that bring the humble slot more in line with modern video gaming. Let’s take a look at the history of slots through the ages. 

Early Mechanical Machines

Although similar machines had been springing up in the cigar shops and saloons of San Francisco for a few years, it wasn’t until Charles Fey’s machine Liberty Bell appeared that slot machines became popular. If you took a punter from the early 1900s into a Las Vegas casino, once they’d recovered from the flashing lights and free drinks, they’d be able to recognise a slot machine right away. It has three reels, payment is inserted, the handle is pulled or the button is pressed, and the reels spin to a stop to determine the outcome.

But these clunky mechanical machines, despite their growing popularity, were met with some resistance from the more conservative elements of society. Photos of proud citizens standing over the remains of smashed machines holding sledgehammers abounded, and in many places, winnings meant tokens for drinks or candies (which inadvertently gave rise to the now iconic fruit symbols on many of the reels). Despite this opposition, the slot machine had been born. 

Developments through the 20th Century

Nowadays we’re used to myriad options in online casinos, with literally thousands of titles covering a range of themes, with state-of-the-art graphics, in-game bonuses and various other tempting features. Slots are so proliferated that there are many useful online resources to seek out the best games, as well as casino bonuses and other relevant information

Anyway, let’s rewind a bit. Slots developed throughout the 20th Century, and as casino resorts like Las Vegas grew, so did the demand for the one-armed bandits (although, increasingly the mechanical arm was replaced by a push-button mechanism). A major advancement was made in the 1960s by Bally Manufacturing. The company had begun making pinball machines, before branching out into slot machines in the 1930s. 

But in 1964 it really hit the jackpot, dominating the slot machine market with the release of Money Honey, the first electromechanical machine available. This was the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper and automatic payout of up to 500 coins without the help of an attendant. It was also a precursor to the more modern slot machines we see in traditional casinos, and now online. 

Advancing Tech

By the 1970s, competition between game manufacturers was hotting up, and a technological race began. This saw the introduction of audio/visual elements into slot machines, most notably the Fortune Coin machine which had a Sony 9” TV screen built in to display reels. The machine was developed in 1976, and by 1978 had made its way onto the floors of most major Vegas casinos. 

As A/V technology continued developing throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, slot machines became more and more intricate, and incorporated more elements of digital video and sound design into the gameplay, although the basic mechanics remained unchanged. The casino slot rooms became garish, noisy places, with endless bleeping, whirring, and the occasional happy sound of coins cascading down. 

Online Casinos

Although the first online casinos were launched in the mid-1990s, they were quite a niche part of the growing consumer internet market. Until digital payment methods like PayPal began to be accepted, there was some distrust about inputting financial and other sensitive data online. But by the early 2000s, many were enjoying the convenience of playing casino slot gacor games on their computers, and online casinos began to flourish. However, it was the smartphone era that kickstarted the slot revolution in the digital age. 

The appearance of the iPhone in 2007 opened the door for increasingly advanced and affordable touchscreen smartphones and tablets. This further spurred mobile gaming as a whole to flourish, and online casinos soared in popularity, with slots quickly becoming a favourite. Game developers were quick to realise the potential in the simplicity of slot gameplay, and began to add elements to make the experience more immersive and cutting-edge while keeping the basic premise the same. 

Now we see slots with myriad themes, amazing graphics, storylines, and the kind of gameplay we usually associate with traditional video gaming. Mechanics such as Megaways, developed by Big Time Gaming, also added new elements, with in-game bonus features and more dynamic gameplay. 

From humble, mechanical origins, the slot machine has never lost its appeal. And its online iteration looks set to keep developing, building layers of new, exciting complexity onto the simplest of premises.

Rachel Bartee

Rachel Bartee is a blogger and freelance writer dreaming of a tour round the world to write a story of her greatest life adventure. For the time being, she feels inspired by her daily yoga sessions and studies Interpersonal Relationships.