Because slot machines are relative newcomers to the gambling scene, there's little doubt about their history or their evolution. Early slots prototypes date back only as far as 1870. Even though Charles Fey didn't develop his first slot machine until 1894, and it wasn't the first slot machine, he is universally considered the Father of the Slot Machine.
It wasn't until Fey was in his early thirties that he devised the first slot machine in 1895. His early influence has survived and can be seen even on today's modern computerized machines. It was during his tenure at a Munich farm tool factory that he developed his insatiable appetite for anything mechanical, and a mechanical savant was born.
The Mechanical Era or The Electromechanical Era or The Computerized Era.
The mechanical era The electromechanical era The computerized era Fey's prototype mechanical machine used cards rather than the fruit we see today. It did, however, ring a bell each time the player won, an amenity that has survived the test of time.
Fey is probably best known for his cast-iron Liberty Bell slot. Each of three reels held ten symbols. Three of the same symbols on the pay line paid the jackpot, with a one in one-thousand chance of winning the jackpot. The Mechanical Era Fey owned the mechanical era through his introduction of the three-reel slot machine. Just as Bill Gates' dominance of the computer industry began in his garage, Fey's dominance of the slots industry began in his basement. Based loosely on the lottery game, Policy, Fey placed his slot machines on a 50% rental basis.
The Electromechanical Era
The electromechanical era dominated the mid-twentieth century-the lackluster era of the slot machine. The highlight of the era was the release of Big Bertha, who was soon upstaged by Super Big Bertha. Super Big Bertha cost north of $150,000 to produce, was powered by a five-horsepower motor, and had 8 reels with 20 symbols per reel. All this power paid back only 80% to the players and the odds of hitting the jackpot were only 1 in 25.6 billion.
The Computerized Era
Today's machines are computerized, relying on pre-programmed random number generators to generate numbers that correspond to patterns of symbols on the reels. Many machines use video to simulate reels, and fewer and fewer machines accept coins. Slots are rapidly moving into the coinless era, and players are moving from the casinos to the Internet slots , a venue that allows them instant play regardless of their location. The internal workings of today's machine bear little technological resemblance to the original Fey machine, but the look and feel of the slot machine still bears Charles Fey's indelible stamp.