We all take slots symbols for granted, but each one has a story as to how it ended up on the reels. Slots were introduced to the world in 1895 when mechanic Charles Fey invented the first-ever slot machine that went public. New Yorkers Sittman and Pitt constructed an earlier effort in 1891 and this used 5 drums and held 50 cards faces, but Fey’s machine was the one the public played first and was therefore given the honour of being remembered as the first ever slot.
Charles Fey named his invention the Mills Liberty Bell. It contained 5 different sets of symbols and these included horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a liberty bell. The bell was the highest paying of all the symbols and three in a row paid out 10 nickels. Obviously, not all symbols could be of high value, as slots were developed to make money and not just to pay out cash to punters – play slot games.
Once symbols became established and the public became accustomed to the values of symbols on the reels, gambling bans suddenly forced changes and a new set of symbols were introduced. In order to beat the gambling ban and survive, slots took on the guise of vending machines that gave out sweets. Symbols associated with gambling such as playing cards faces, were replaced with fruit symbols and this gave birth to the Fruit Machine.
In 1907, a machine named Operator Bell that was also fruit symbol focused hit the USA. It also proved highly popular and was introduced into saloons and barber’s shops. In 1910 The Mills Novelty Company released its own gum-dispensing machine, but with a new Bar symbol added to the reels. Once the gambling bans were lifted, these gaming machines once again became gambling machines, but surprisingly, the fruit symbols remained on the reels. Even today, in the hi tech world of the virtual video slot, these fruit symbols can still be found on retro style and classic slot games.
The Modern Era
Old style slot machines are now considered antiques and their demise continued in the 1960’s when the first electric slot was introduced. It wasn’t until the 1970s when traditional slots symbols began to really fight for space on the reels with new symbols like stars, crowns 777 and gems.
The Digital Age
In 1996 the world was introduced to online casinos and virtual video slots that were designed by using computer graphics and specialist software. What this did was open the creative floodgates. All kinds of games and features became possible and with new ideas came lots of new symbols. These were mostly influenced by the theme of the games. New high paying and low paying symbols joined or replaced traditional slots symbols. Card face symbols are still important to slots, but many are part of the lowest paying symbols nowadays. These low paying symbols are still important because they fill the reels and help give slots the house edge needed to turn in a profit. They are also important because they help create the paylines of slots.