May 15th 2007
Whenever you will play in a land based casino you will find a very large variety of slot machines operated by coin or by token. All these slot machines have one common ancestor. The first slot machine was created in the early 1890's. Its creator was Charles Fey, a machinist and metal worker that emigrated from Bavaria. He designed and built the first slot machine and it is this design that is still so popular today. The basics behind the slot machine are simple. There are several symbols painted on a set of wheels. You will win if you will get a specific symbol combination. There are several combinations, and the pay ratios differ from one combination to another.

The first slot machines used the same symbols that are used in a deck of cards: Spades, Diamonds, Clubs and Hearts. There were other symbols such as horseshoes, stars and Liberty Bells. You would get the biggest pay ratio if you would get three Liberty Bells in a line. Soon enough people started calling Fey's machine "Liberty Bells" or simply "Bells". The first slot machines that Fey built could be found in bars all around the Chicago Bay Area. This is where he lived at the time, and he made arrangements with bar owners to put his slot machines in their establishments. The slot machines sat on top of the bar where anyone could play the game.

If you won at slot machines you would get a free drink. But that didn't last very long, and wins at slot machines would be later on paid with cash. You could by a whole lot more with a dollar in those days, and you only needed a nickel to play slot machines. If you took a chance and played you could win as much as ten nickels. The pay ratios depended on the symbol combinations of course. The profits that these machines generated were split between Fey and the bar owners. Because you could play for a nickel people started calling Fey's invention "nickel-in the-slot-machine". This name is still used today, but in its short version: slot machines.

As any idea that generates a profit, Fey was soon faced with a large number of copy cats. They took his initial idea and modified it. Some new slot machines were better than the initial model, others were just novelties. Fey was not the only one that manufactured this game any more. There was plenty of competition. The basics remained the same, but the wheels became larger. More symbols could now be put on the wheels, and with more symbols came more winning combinations. Slot machines manufactures started to put symbols of fruits on the wheels. These new symbols quickly caught on and proved to be so popular that people started calling using the term "fruit machines". The cherry symbol was so popular that the 3-cherry payout is still found on slot machines today.

The most important change to slot machines design came in the beginning of the 20th century. This is when Herbert Mills, a slot machines manufacturer, made a design change that is still used to this day. In Fey's design the player could only see on line, the payoff line. Mills modified this so that the player can also see the lines above and below the payoff line. Now the player could see how far or how close he was from winning. This adds more tension to the game and in the end makes it more entertaining.

Mills further improved the game and included one more options that were not available before. One such innovation is the concept of a jackpot. This means that the player will get paid at a huge ratio if he gets the winning combination. The concept is still used in modern games.

As you have seen, over the years many modifications and improvements have been made to slot machines. The first slot machines were based on a mechanical design. But nowadays computers have taken the place of that mechanical design. The game has stayed true to its essence, and it is pretty much the same as in its beginnings.

This is how a reel slot machine works. There is a central metal shaft which is connected to a handle mechanism. This handle holds the reels. If you will pull on the handle, the reels will start moving. Before you can pull on the handle you must first insert coin. A coin detector will then unlock the handle. There is a breaking system that will stop the reels. Once the reels have stopped sensors will detect their position. This is how the machine knows if you have a winning combination. You will be paid if you have one.

The principles behind both conventional and electrical slot machines are pretty much the same. When playing an electrical slot machine a motor will spin the reels and they will be stopped by solenoids. Another difference is the money handling devices. Electrical slot machines have more advanced ones.

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