Evolution of Slot Machines: From Mechanical to Digital

Evolution of Slot Machines: From Mechanical to Digital

In contrast to games like blackjack and roulette, which have pretty much stayed the same since they first appeared in casinos, slots have gone through a significant transformation from their origin until now.

Once clunky and noisy machines that only featured a few basic symbols and simple payout rules, video slots of today come in an array of themes and intricate gameplay mechanisms. So, what happened in between? How did slots turn from an unproven concept into a gambling phenomenon that we now see everywhere, from land-based casino floors to online and Moonspin Casino site?

Liberty Bell and the First Gambling Machines

Poker-based gambling machines first appeared in New York in the 1890s and were mostly featured in bars. The player would insert a coin, pull a lever, and hope that the spinning drums would produce the best possible poker hand when they stop. Instead of a direct payout, a good hand would win the player a free beer or a pack of cigarettes.

A few years later, Charles Fey of San Francisco developed a machine called Liberty Bell, a simpler version of the aforementioned machines. Instead of poker cards, it featured only a few symbols like horseshoes, bells, and card suits and was played on three reels. This made it much easier to set up automatic payouts, as there were not as many winning combinations as in poker

The machine proved a huge hit, and even though it was outlawed in California, the demand for it grew across the States. Many would copy Fey’s design and create machines with their own symbols and payout mechanisms at the turn of the century.

Bally and the Birth of Electromechanical and Video Slots

Fast forward to 1963 and the introduction of Money Honey, the first fully electromechanical slot developed by Bally. It featured a bottomless hopper and could produce an automatic payout of 500 coins.

It wasn’t long before electromechanical slots were replaced by a more advanced technology. The first video slots came around the mid-1970s, equipped with a color display and logic boards that would operate all of the game’s functions. They were developed by Fortune Coin Co., which was later acquired by IGT, a company on its path to becoming one of the global leaders in the production of gambling products. 

The Nevada State Gaming Commission approved the new tech, and video slots were soon flooding upscale casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

Instead of mechanical reels and punch cards with a random set of outcomes, video slots now utilized random number generators (RNGs), which made them more fair and virtually impossible to cheat on. Levers would also become obsolete, with most machines replacing them with a simple spin button.

Video slots became more advanced over the years, both from the technological side and in terms of gameplay. Standard reels and paylines featuring classic fruit and bell symbols were getting old, so the manufacturers came up with fresh concepts supported by advancing technology. 

In the late 1990s, many slots came with bonus features, with some machines having a second screen specifically designed for the bonus round, such as the Reel ’Em In slot by WMS.

Online and Mobile Slots

Online casinos emerged in the 1990s, and as computer and internet technology progressed over the years, the accessibility of video slots has expanded across the globe. 

It now only takes minutes for someone to find a legitimate online casino, create an account, and pick among a wide range of video slots that feature a colorful array of themes and diverse payout mechanisms.

Software companies started producing slots specifically for the iGaming industry, resulting in a market filled with tens of thousands of games. Today, video slots continue to be the most popular gambling game, both online and in traditional brick-and-mortar casinos.