The next time you log onto Wizardslots and start spinning the reels of your favourite game, won’t you spend just 60 seconds thinking about how the slot symbols on the reels came about? Yes, we all know they’re called Fruit Machines, but why? It’s not as though they once dispensed fruit.
Let’s take a wander back in time to find out how the symbols became an almost subconscious part of our culture.
The first ever slot machine
The first slot machine was built by an American named Charles Fey back in 1894. He was a mechanic by trade, but his new invention proved so popular that he quit his day job, and set up a factory to concentrate on building slot machines for a living.
Then, in 1898, Fey built a three-reel slot machine that had an automatic pay-out mechanism. The strangely named “Card Bell” required pulling down a handle to work the reels, and despite its name, it was revolutionary.
Fey wasn’t one to rest on his laurels and although the Card Bell was wildly successful, a year later, in 1899, Fey built his most innovative machine yet. The famous Liberty Bell machine was born. This machine had a trio of reels, and instead of playing card values, it used horseshoes, liberty bells and stars symbols.
As you may already know, the highest pay-out was triggered when a trio of liberty bells was landed.
Plus ça change
Now, you may be extremely surprised to read that America was a divided nation back at the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, despite the paradisiacal sense of harmony it emits today, America was full of right-wing religious groups and committees which essentially monitored morality throughout society.
Shortly before WWI, these groups spent a lot of time and effort lobbying to get slots machines banned and to stop them paying out cash prizes. After all, they contravened many states’ gambling laws.
Therefore, the Industry Novelty Company made the first slot machines with fruit icons. Fruits were innocent enough and could fly under the noses of the morality zealots, couldn’t they?
More machines with tinkered designs followed, and soon, instead of fruit icons, packs of chewing-gum were shown. As the gum could hypothetically be vended in family grocery stores, and came in all delicious fruity flavours, fruit symbols were placed on the reels replacing some of the original symbols.
The modern age
Casinos soon tapped into how popular fruit machines were, and sensed there was more money to be made. As a result, the first electronic slot machine was built in 1975, and you know what? Tipping their metaphorical hat to all the guys that had suffered over the last 100 years to get slots machines to where they are today, it featured the same old fruit symbols.
Nowadays, no casino, traditional or digital, is complete without the famous symbols on the reels. The cherries, the lemons, the bell, the horseshoe, they’re all part of the culture now.
However, they had some journey to get here.