We’ll get onto the surprising amount of difference between modern slots and the original version later in the article. But first, we need to look at why slots are so incredibly popular.
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Evolution of Slot Machines: From the Original Liberty Bell to Modern Theme
Unlike other casino games, you don’t have to wait for slots. Hit the button and in the next few seconds, for a relatively small fee, you could win a life-changing sum of money.
Also, online casinos which provide slots consistently add to their offering meaning players don’t get bored of playing the same one over and over again. There is a range of niches, covering hit films, historical events, and famous musicians, while the flashing lights, sounds, free spins, and bonuses all work together to keep the player engaged.
This may seem like a far cry from the original slot machine created in San Francisco by Bavarian-born Charles Fey in 1894. This coin-operated device that consisted of three reels didn’t even have a cash payout system until 1898, but by then, Fey was already a wealthy man.
His breakthrough machine, The Liberty Bell, is one that we’d instantly recognize with its card suites, horseshoes, and, of course, bells; Get three of those in a line and you’ve won.
And we can pretty much cut to the present on that distinctive note while checking out a few significant variations on the slot theme. For control, we’ll refer to the three-wheeled slot as the ‘classic’ and take it from there.
1960s: Electric slots
Apart from tweaking the reel symbols to distance slots from negative gambling connotations (i.e., fruit instead of card suites), slots were essentially unchanged for sixty-odd years. However, the use of electricity saw an emphasis on lighting and sound to ramp up the dynamism of playing.
It’s worth noting that this completes the basic concept of the modern slot, what followed were just tweaks to the formula. However, there are some noteworthy variations on the theme…
1970s: Video slots
Instead of real-life rolling reels, the video slot replaced them with TV images. This allowed for multiple pay lines and more advanced graphics that would interact with the action.
Themes began to emerge, slots started to have their characteristics giving the psychological impression that the machines differed from each other. On the contrary, the machines were more similar than ever.
1980s: Progressive Slots
To emphasize the latter point, this is when several machines are linked up to afford a larger payout. The idea is that the unwon winnings from a designated collection of slots would accumulate to create a grand jackpot worth thousands or millions.
This grand jackpot would be winnable from any one of the designated slots, so you had a chance of winning big, even if you were losing! This was made possible with the introduction of microprocessors and random number generators (RNG) that did away with mechanical intervention.
1990s Online slots
The internet, and later the smartphone, took slots out of the land casino and quite literally into the palm of your hand. They also attracted a new audience, and their popularity is still on the rise year on year.
These days, online slots are a billion-dollar global business and there’s been more in the way of development in the past two decades than ever before. RNG has allowed games to be more varied with more than one chance of winning and, therefore, losing.
Slot Variations: Casino and Online
In this final section, we’ll look at some of the variations in the slots you may encounter both in a casino and online.
Classic slot machines only offered one pay line, that’s when the reels aligned to reveal a matching symbol. These days, pay lines can go horizontally, vertically, and zig-zag, and you can bet on as many as you want.
Even though the principle is the same, slot machines have different themes and/graphics that help you to differentiate one from the other. This is also true of how much/what a slot machine pays on winning pay lines, so shop around!
The ‘Return to Player’ consists of a percentage that indicates how much a slot plays out over what you put in. So, if the RTP is 97%, it means you’ll win back 97 cents for every dollar you spend.
Obviously, the higher the RTP, the better the chance of you winning. What it doesn’t do is provide the criteria to establish when the RTP begins or ends.
But despite the risks, slots are more popular than ever, with new variations on the theme landing every week. But in actuality, not much has changed from Charles Fey’s original Liberty Bell.
Just like 130 years ago, you’re paying to play, always with that chance of winning big. And that’s an enduring proposition that has seen the business grow and grow.