The history of the slot machine is somewhat murky. Many countries claim to have invented the game, which was first known as poker machines. But the modern slot machine was actually invented between 1887 and 1895 by American inventor Charles Augustus Fey. Unlike the original machines, Fey’s invention was a lot simpler and allowed the payouts to be automatic.
Fey’s slot machine used symbols instead of traditional playing cards. These symbols are still used in slot machines today. The first slot machine invented by Charles Fey was referred to as the Liberty Bell, as it paid the highest payout when three bell symbols were spun in a row. Although his machine was not particularly innovative or aesthetically pleasing, it was still an improvement over its predecessors.
The coin-operated mechanism became popular in casinos and saloons, where people could bet on their luck. Initially, the machines were only meant for novelty, but over time, they evolved into coin-operated gambling machines. In the early 1900s, when prohibition spread across the United States, religious leaders discouraged the public from gambling. In San Francisco, there were up to 3,300 Liberty Bell machines.
In 1964, Bally produced the first fully electromechanical slot machine, Money Honey. It introduced features like automatic payouts and a bottomless hopper. The machine also allowed players to make multi-coin bets and featured flashing lights and sounds. It revolutionized the gambling industry and led to the eventual elimination of side levers.
As the popularity of slot machines spread across the United States, fruit symbols became synonymous with slot machines. They symbolize fun and innocence, and casinos wanted to promote this image to entice the public. This perception was also reinforced by the anti-gambling laws that followed prohibition. Although these laws were temporary, they failed to stop the popularity of the slot machine.
Fey began his career by working in manufacturing and later began to develop slot machines. He worked with a coworker to develop different types of slot machines and a payment system. His machine, called 4-11-44, was a hit and quickly became a popular machine. He eventually went on to create his own factory. The next invention he created was a three-reel slot machine based on the Sittman-Pittman poker game.
Later, slot machines evolved to incorporate more complex mechanisms and designs. They paid out partly or completely on certain combinations of images or a jackpot. Some machines used metal contacts attached to their reels that engaged a stationary contact wired to the circuit board. Eventually, some companies began to experiment with electrically-powered slot machines, and Bally introduced the first electromechanical slot machine in 1956.