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One-armed Bandits and The Liberty Bell-The History of Slot Machines

What does the Liberty Bell, the slot machine, the one-armed bandit and the fruit machine have in common? Well, the answer lies in the slot machine history and when you travel back in time to around 1897, you will meet a German immigrant by the name Charles Fey who invented the first ever slot machine christened “The Liberty Bell”.

Charles Fey named his three wheel slot machine The Liberty Bell as he had used it as a symbol for the winning jackpot combination. Some of the other symbols that he used in his slot machine were the four faces of playing cards and a horseshoe. In case you were wondering about the “fruit machine”, it really has nothing to do with juice or fruit production, but rather a British nickname for slot machines. The same applies to the one-armed bandit, no guns, just slot machines.

Charles Fey Faces Competition and Hurdles

The year is 1899 and a competitor, “Sittman and Pitt of Brooklyn”, took Fey’s 3 line slots and made 5 drum pay-line slots that had 50 card faces. Their machines were based on poker hands, royal flushes, straights, flushes and pairs.

Due to strict gambling laws of that time however, there were no direct payouts and standards were usually set by bar owners who would decide to pay you with tobacco, other items or cigars for a flush or royal flush. From this era of slot machines, the expression “close but no cigar” which is still used to date started to be widely used.

In 1906, Fey’s factory was destroyed by the great San Francisco earthquake and fire but that did not deter him as he went ahead to join forces with the Mills Novelty Company in 1907 producing the Mills Liberty Bell. By 1910, his Liberty Bell slot machines were varied by Mills to include a coin entry and fruit symbols. In the year 1915, due to the high cost of producing the cast iron slot machines, wood was selected as a cheaper alternative.

Modern Day Slot Machines

It wasn’t until the 1950’s that electromechanical slot machines started to be popular especially with the entry of “Big Bertha” and “Super Big Bertha”, which although expensive to produce, gave the slot machine history a new lease of life. Jackpots were not only bigger, but the pay outs were quite good too and both the players and machine owners were delighted with these new machines.

With the development and use of computers, the design of slot machines has greatly been revolutionized. While the design of the old machines was limited to a certain number of symbols and reels, modern day computerized slot machines can be made to have an unlimited number of reels and symbols which are determined by a random number generator.

Currently, the two basic types of slot machines are progressives and flat tops with the difference being on the pay out. A progressive machine has a jackpot which keeps on growing in percentage with each coin that is played; most of the time, a number of progressive slots are usually connected to a single jackpot whereby any slot can become a winner. It is very common to find a progressive slot with a digital readout that shows the current jackpot.

Flat top machines on the other hand have payouts that are predetermined for a given number of combinations saved somewhere in the machine.

The history of slot machines is rich and interesting which adds to the fun and interest of playing the machine. As long as you never take the game too seriously and you set your limits and stick to them, enjoying the slot machine can be quite easy.

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