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Types of Slots in the order they were invented

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When you think of slots, several different types might come to mind. There’s the classic one-armed bandit that started it all, and now mobile slots abound with themes for every film, cartoon and period of history imaginable. The history of slots goes back over 100 years, and since then they have evolved to become interactive gaming experiences with huge jackpots.

Here are the different types of slots, presented in the order that they were invented:

One-Armed Bandit

The first slot machine was developed in 1891, but it wasn’t until a few years later that Charles Fey invented the Liberty Bell, simplifying the slot and making it more commercially viable. These early slots were mechanically operated with a pull lever, which manually spun the reels and paid out according to the symbols shown.

The original Liberty Bell had three reels and five symbols, including the Liberty Bell, which paid out the most—50 cents for matching three. This machine served as the blueprint for many to come, and by the early 1990s many saloons, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues had a bell machine installed.

Old Fashioned Slot MachineIt’s rare that you will see a true one-armed bandit outside of the world of museums and private collections. Even slot machines in casinos with a pull lever tend to be electronic, with the lever included just for nostalgic purposes. Players can also use a button to spin the reels, even though doing so will have no effect on the outcome.

Caption: A classic one-armed bandit.

Video Slots

In 1976, the first video slot machine was made, and, as with most steps forward in the slot machine’s journey, it took a few years before this type of slot was popularised. The video slot replaced the mechanical one-armed bandit with digital spinning reels and a spin button. Pull became press.

Though the gameplay essentially stayed the same, video slots allowed developers many more avenues to play with. No longer restricted to set numbers of symbols, paylines and themes, video slots opened up a more visually-pleasing experience—one that could offer more betting options and even elaborate bonus games. For example, players could hit bonus symbols and spin a jackpot wheel that comes up on the screen.

You will still find this type of slot in land-based casinos today. They have come on a lot in design and function since the 1980s, but basically they are the same. The outcome is determined electronically using an RNG, and the reels digitally represent that outcome with the symbols.

Progressive Slots

Soon after video slots became popular, progressive jackpots started to appear in casinos. The idea was simple, but effective. For each bet players placed on participating slot machines, a small fraction would go towards the jackpot. The more people played the slot, the bigger the jackpot would become, until someone eventually hit big.

This idea gained even more momentum once developers and casino owners realised that you could connect multiple machines together to generate an even greater potential for a huge prize. And, one step further, they started to link up machines across multiple casinos or the entire nation. Progressive jackpots can get huge, with the largest ever so far being $39.7 million on the Vegas Megabucks.

Online Slots

Online slots became big in the 2000s. Online platforms allow players easy access to the games and a comfortable way to enjoy slots without going to the casino. It was an easy enough leap from video slots (which were already electronic) to creating slot games that were completely conducted online.

By 2015 online slots had become widely-available on mobile, offering even more accessibility. The online competition is fierce, so developers try their best to come up with original themes and features, and return-to-player percentages tend to be higher than they are at land-based casinos.

Online slots come in all forms and many different types, from simple 3-reel slots to 7-reel slots with multiple bonus symbols and feature rounds or progressive jackpot slots that get incredibly big due to the volume of players online.

That’s it for now. The progression of slots has gone from mechanical pull levers to smartphone games that people carry around in their pockets. The games themselves have gotten slicker and more colourful, with features and themes aimed at attracting players. Let’s see what the future holds for slots.



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