Since the beginning of humanity, humans have sought enjoyment from life. This started by playing games of all sorts. Some games date back to cave drawings depicting early man using different objects to play games. These games were both for interaction with other mankind as well as cognitive enhancement.

Today, one common form of recreation is gambling. You may be surprised to learn that gambling dates back prior to written history. The first modern casino, the Ridotto in Italy, opened back in 1638. Gambling has evolved substantially since then. Now, as you probably know, you can gamble from the comfort of your home.

For decades, slot machines have remained the most popular form of gambling. According to a PBS Frontline report, more than two-thirds of gamblers play slots more than any other game.

When did slot machines roll around, however? Whether you’re a fan of one-armed bandits or not, you’ll be interested in learning the history behind these now-ubiquitous machines.

The Slot Machine’s First Precursor

Brooklyn, New York was once home to the now-defunct Sittman and Pitt, a manufacturing company. In 1891, Sittman and Pitt developed what it called a trade simulator. Unlike slot machines, the manufacturer’s fully-mechanical trade stimulator didn’t reward winners with money.

Here’s how Sittman and Pitt’s trade stimulator worked: it contained five-round drums that contained 10 playing cards each. Upon entering a coin and pulling its arm, the machine would spit out five cards to form a poker hand. Businesses with these machines would set their own rewards for various hands. A bar might offer a free beer for a pair or a round of shots for a royal flush.

Even when gambling was prohibited, American businesses could keep these machines without dealing with regulatory authorities. This kept the interest in these types of games alive.

The Liberty Bell

In 1895, San Francisco electrical engineer Charles Fey simplified the trade stimulator’s design, replacing the drums with reels, only using three reels, and slapping five symbols on each reel.

The Liberty Bell got its name from one of the reels’ five original symbols: horseshoes, hearts, spades, diamonds, and the Liberty Bell. Players were more interested in Fey’s invention than Sittman and Pitt’s trade stimulator because it was much simpler and prevented the chances of business owners removing valuable cards from drums.

It ended up being banned from California a few years later. However, creative workarounds helped the Liberty Bell live on.

Here Comes Bally’s Money Honey

Bally Manufacturing, an also-defunct American company that got its start making pinball machines, created the world’s first electric-powered slot machine in 1963. Technically defined as an electromechanical slot machine thanks to its use of mechanical parts, Money Honey attracted gamblers across the United States thanks to its electric-powered design.

Aside from its use of electricity, Money Honey expanded the amount of coins slot machines could hold. In the past, jackpot winners had to inform casino attendants that they won to get their money. Now able to hold up to 500 coins, players were thrilled by the rush of hearing a seemingly neverending waterfall of quarters, dimes, or nickels.

Thanks to Money Honey, slot arms started to lose their function. From here on out, players only pressed buttons — not mechanical levers.

It’s Time for Video Slots

In 1976, Fortune Coin Company developed the video slot machine. Although it functioned the same as its predecessors, reels were displayed on 19-inch color television. These devices helped attract gamblers with animations, story-telling, and eye-popping symbols. These video slots were the precursors to today’s in-casino and online slot games.

The Last Major Slot Gaming Development — Online Gaming

In 1994, the world’s first online gambling websites came to be. These wouldn’t become popular until over a decade later.

In the early 2000s, telecommunications companies began including rudimentary games on cell phones. With the proliferation of smartphones, mobile gaming became a viable, somewhat-popular form of gambling. Now you can play free slots games from anywhere in the world.

Today, online slots remain one of the most popular forms of gambling on online casinos.

Here is some of the terminology you will need to understand for this game:

  • Bonus: Bonuses are special features offered by slot games which are given to players when specific symbols are hit in winning combinations. Each game provides a different number of and type of bonuses based on different winning combinations. Some offer free spins where the symbols and winning combination options are different than the normal game. These also offer new price payout options if you hit the winning combination of symbols. These bonuses can be significantly different from game to game.
  • Candle: The Candle is a light that almost always sits on top of the slot machine. It flashes when the machine needs servicing or an error has occurred. Sometimes these also flash when a player has hit a jackpot.
  • Carousel: A Carousel is a grouping of slot machines usually in specific formations to entice players to sit a play.
  • Coin hopper: A coin hopper is just as it sounds. It’s a container where payouts and remaining coins are dropped for players to retrieve.
  • Credit meter: A credit meter is a counter showing the remaining amount of money the player has available to bet.
  • Short pay: Short pay refers to the situation when a slot machine dispenses less money than the player is owned. This happens when the slot machine doesn’t have enough money in it to pay the total amount owed. In this scenario, the operator usually accompanies the player to a payment window to dispense the rest of their winnings.
  • Scatter: Scatter refers to a different combination of designated symbols landing in different positions on the reel rather than falling in the payline sequence. These scatter pays can be used to initiate free spin bonus games.
  • Volatility: Volatility refers to the risk assessment associated with a slot machine game. Lower volatility games on the slot machine floor usually have much lower winning payouts while high-variance slot games have less but much larger winnings.