In just over a century, the humble slot machine has evolved almost beyond recognition. For someone whose idea of slots resembles the fruit machines sometimes shown in old movies, playing today’s slots online or even going into a modern casino will come as quite a shock. Today’s slots are entirely digital and fully immersive, offering an experience that compares with and sometimes outdoes the most sophisticated video games on the market.
The first slots
Charles Augustus Fey is credited as having invented the slot machine as we know it, the distinction being that those mechanical devices paid out real money rather than tickets that you exchanged at the bar. The most famous example was the liberty bell, a slot machine that gave you the highest payout when three matching bell symbols appeared across the reels.
Fruit machines appeared as a family-friendly alternative to genuine slots when the latter were banned in the US. Fruit machines paid out in sweets and candy rather than in cash, the type of sweet matching the type of fruit shown on the winning reels.
In the 1960s, electricity replaced the mechanical process of the old-fashioned slots and, eventually, the big lever you pulled to set the reels spinning was replaced by a push-button. Video slots appeared in bars, arcades, and casinos in the late 1970s and allowed game designers far more flexibility in terms of themes. Already we were far beyond the basic fruit machine format, and the popularity of slots increased even in the face of new competitors like Space Invaders, seen as the forerunner of the modern video game.
The next big jump came with the introduction of online slots, which appeared almost simultaneously with the first widely available websites in the mid-nineties. Online casinos and sports betting were hugely popular from the earliest days of the internet, and many still flock to the best NJ online sportsbook for fun and big winnings. While the first online slots were relatively primitive, the appearance of progressive jackpots in the late nineties proved a game-changer. Suddenly online slots could and did make people into millionaires.
Online slots don’t have the physical space limitations of their real-world equivalent, and so can have any number of different reels and betting lines. They also often include games within games, bonus rounds, and narratives that take the player far beyond the simple three-reel spin. Online slots come in an almost endless variety of different themes, with state-of-the-art graphics, sound art, and playability adding to the excitement.
Casinos strike back
The immense competition from online gaming has forced bricks-and-mortar casinos to up their game as well. Head to Las Vegas or Palm Springs, whereyou’ll find powerful slot machines that let you order drinks and book dinner as you play. They feature curved screens and 4k resolution that draw you into the experience. Cashless slot machines connect directly to a mobile wallet or credit card or pay out in virtual money that you can spend in the casino’s restaurant, bar or nightclub afterwards.
The slot machine has come a long way since the fruit machine of old. In today’s digital age, it remains one of the most popular forms of gaming. As technology advances, the slot will still be with us, staying one step ahead of the competition.