Fruit machines through the ages

Fruit machines

Believe it or not, slot machines didn’t always offer cash prizes. In fact, the games initially provided players with the chance to win the likes of food and drink from the bar they were in. Following a gambling ban, they then adopted the famous fruit symbols and offered prizes in the form of sweets and fruit-flavoured gum.

It’s taken a lot to get to where we are today, as playing online slots for real money is what we have become accustomed to,and the use of technology allowing us to access our favourite games whenever we fancy, is deemed the norm. This wasn’t always that way, though, so join us as we delve into the origins of the beloved fruit machines, and reminisce on the pub classics from the good old days.

Read on to find out more.

The first slot machine

The very first slot machine was a Poker gambling machine, created in 1887. It had five drums, 50 playing cards, and the aim was to make up Poker hands using the reels. Two cards were missing from the machine – the ten of spades and the jack of hearts – which halved the odds of getting a royal flush. Players would pay a nickel and pull the lever to play, triggering a spring inside to spin the reels. Prizes were paid out over the bar in the form of free drinks and cigars.

In 1891, the first slot machine with an automatic payout system was invented. The Liberty Bell, pioneered by Charles Fey, replaced the five drums with three, and swapped out the playing cards for just five symbols. These were: hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes and a liberty bell. The machine became wildly popular, and without a patent for his design, Fey’s invention was copied by many other manufacturers.

Fruit machines

1902 saw the official ban on slot machines, but production of the Liberty Bell continued to take place. The symbols were replaced with those such as cherries, oranges, melons, apples and the iconic BAR symbol. The era of the fruit machine had commenced. As monetary prizes were no longer allowed, prizes would be paid out in the form of sweets and gum in the corresponding flavour to the symbols displayed on the payline. In 1907, a slot machine called the Operator Bell was developed, and by the following year, could be found in most tobacconists, bowling alleys, shops and salons. The famous BAR symbol is said to have originated from the logo of the Ball-Fruit Gum Company, as the symbol itself is based on a pack of gum.

Electromechanical Slots

In 1964, the first electromechanical slot machine was released. Despite the reels being operated electronically, the game was still played by pulling a lever. Money Honey was the first slot machine with a bottomless hopper, meaning prizes of up to 500 coins could be paid out. As the game rose in popularity and players became more familiar with the technology, the lever was removed and replaced with a button.

Video Slots

The first video slot used a modified 19-inch Sony TV to display the reels. The first version was only available in the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, and after undergoing some strict anti-cheat modifications, the machine got the approval from the Nevada State Gaming Commission, causing a boom in popularity along the Las Vegas Strip.

Online Slots

In 1996, the very first online casino to offer automated payouts opened its virtual doors. With this, it offered up the opportunity for video slot developers to make their games more accessible for everyone, and as technology has continued to develop, so have the games. Now, not only are classic slot games available to play online, but there are more complex engines, mechanics, multipliers that lead to bigger payouts, free spins, changing reels and so many more ways, that virtual-slot gameplay has just continued to get bigger and better.