The history of slot machines

If we have to go back to the very beginning of the world’s first slot machine, we have to go back to the late 1800s. Indeed, the first slot machine was called Card Bell, and was invented in San Francisco by Charles August Fey in 1898. It was actually a mechanic who had been passionate about since adolescence; thanks in particular to one of his brothers, Edmund, who works in a small factory in Munich, for the automatic castors which were very popular and very popular at the time. He had therefore succeeded in manufacturing his own model in 1894 which he then improved 5 years later to create in fact in 1899 what was to become the Liberty Bell, which then enjoyed extraordinary and dazzling success. Everyone enjoyed this slot machine, called “mechanical reels” which actually had 3 reels, around which were 5 symbols. We could therefore display a drawing of the shape of the values ​​of cards such as diamonds, hearts and spades, but also of the shape of a horseshoe and the famous Liberty Bell which then represented the maximum gain which was obtained by the alignment of these 3 bells on a single row.

Charles August Fey, still fascinated by the many automatic roulettes found particularly around San Francisco at that time, invented his first machine in 1894. It was then a rotating disc device, very similar to those designed by Gustav Shultze, then he decided the same year to set up his own company with one of his colleagues, Theodore Holtz. Both resign from the California Electric Works Company to associate and found a company specializing in the construction of telephones, telegraphs and electrical equipment.


Fey’s second machine was then built a year later and was called the 4-11-44, drawing heavily on a popular lottery. At this time, it has 3 concentric dials and offers a jackpot set at $5. Charles August Fey wisely decides to install it in a café before noticing its overwhelming success which will then encourage him to build new ones and then decide to specialize in the design and manufacture exclusively of this type of slot machine. He then sets up a new company and sells his shares in his first company to his ex-partner.

The success of the Liberty Bell

If this model of games has been incredibly successful, a certain interest on the part of players and has therefore found itself to be a great commercial success, it is quite simply and essentially due to its combinatorics which in fact allowed it to get a thousand different combinations. You should know that there were a thousand different ones, compared to only a hundred in automatic roulette which was its predecessor, but which the slot machine has definitively supplanted. But the Liberty Bell also innovated for something else: its particular functionality allowing the implementation of automatic payment.

A phenomenal success

The success of the Liberty Bell is such that players swear by it; to the point of totally abandoning the traditional wheels built by Charles August Fey’s direct competitors. But if the latter finally decides to keep the exclusivity of his invention, he will not fail to share the winnings with the owners of the bars where his machine is installed. In 1905, one of the devices was stolen from a living room and then found in the warehouses of one of Charles August Fey’s competitors, Mills in Chicago.

The adventure will quickly end for poor Fey who made the mistake of refusing to market his patent when the success of his machines was becoming exponential! The competition was not long in getting organized and making itself known and it was Mills then, Caille, who launched machines really similar to the Liberty Bell, copying stolen Fey models without even risking the slightest sentence or conviction because of the negligence of poor Charles who will also see associations and legislators see in his device a product judged as diabolical. They will then try to ban it before a law makes these machines illegal…

Prohibition gets involved

It was in the 1920s that the industry for this type of machine took a whole new turn, when prohibition prohibited gambling. Mills then comes up with an ingenious idea. He converts his slot machines into candy dispensers. It will then be the result of a second success which will still leave traces today on a large percentage of slot machines in land-based or virtual casinos. From this period there are indeed fruit designs that can be found everywhere on all models up to the most recent with, for example, bananas, cherries, strawberries, watermelons, plums, oranges, etc.

These devices therefore no longer offer dangerous gambling games, but harmless sweets and this is how the first Fruity slots in history were born, a kind of new and curious candy distributors which work in a simple way since the customer only had to insert money to buy treats and to activate the reels. If he then obtained a winning combination, he won tokens which he could exchange for cigarettes or drinks as he pleased. We are then left with a type of mechanical slot machine which will work until the launch of new models, electromechanical machines from Bally in 1963 while the mechanism from Fey will remain practically unchanged until then.

Then came the 80s

Renewal, modernism, revolution in customs and habits, electronic slot machines then appeared in the 80s following the technological progress of video and computers. Then arrive on the casino market, various types and models of slots such as classic reel machines, video slot machines and also video pokers and multi games. These are machines which have exactly the same identical functioning and which each have a cycle of combinations while listing all the possible and unimaginable combinations.

A combination is then displayed randomly for each game played, and will no longer appear during the cycle, which will only end when all the combinations have been displayed. We then find ourselves faced with a duration of a cycle that can reach more than 16 million strokes played depending on whether they have 5 or 6 reels. However, the machines could very well be replaced before the end of their cycle by the owners of gaming or entertainment establishments.

At present, there are thousands of models of this type of slot machine in all the casinos of the world and in the form of video games for all the online casinos and many companies have based, for example, all their activities around the design of specialized video games of slot machines for online casinos since the mid-90s and the emergence of the internet which contributed to making this type of machine even more known all around the world!