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Concise History of Slot Machines – Meet the Pokies

The slot machine is ubiquitous throughout the developed world, beloved of the Brits in their pubs and seaside resorts, the Americans in their bars and casinos, the Japanese in their pachinko parlours and game centres. Pokies – that?s gamer slang for slots – have formed one of the staple parts of the gaming industry for over a century, offering that classic casino adrenaline rush, all over the world. If there is a sweeter feeling than watching those symbols lining up and hitting the jackpot, we have not felt it. 

Pokies are a huge draw to gamers, currently garnering around 70% of the income of most US casinos. The machines themselves have managed to keep their special sort of charm, despite going through some major changes over the years. Nowadays gamers are just as likely to play online pokies at Jackpot Capital Casino as the big old machines at the local arcade. Let?s take a look at the evolution of this iconic bellwether of the gaming industry and see how pokies came to be a worldwide phenomenon…

Invention & Rising popularity
The slot machine story starts in San Francisco, California, where one Charles Fey reputedly invented the very first mechanical slot machine in 1887. Fey?s creation featured a trio of spinning reels and just five symbols – diamonds, spades, hearts, horseshoes and liberty bells, the latter of which provided the machines with their name. The Liberty Bell slot machines proved immensely successful, and within the space of a few years, copycat machines were appearing across the U.S.

A collection of first generation slot machines. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A collection of "one arm slingers", the very first generation slot machines. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gambling machines were soon a craze throughout The States, with more complex models appearing all the time, including Sittman & Pitt?s 1891 5-drum, 50-symbol poker-based pokie, which offered gamers the chance to win prizes such as drinks and cigars as opposed to cash prizes.

All manner of variants on the slot machine concept started springing up across much of the globe over the following decades, offering a range of prizes from packs of chewing gum to healthy cash sums.

Plugging in – the advent of electromechanical slots
Whilst some slot machines had exhibited electromechanical features since the 1940s, the first fully electromechanical slot machine was created by Bally Technologies in 1963. Offering an attractive light display and attendant-free pay out of up to 500 coins, these Money Honey machines proved immensely popular, fast becoming pokie of choice for many gamers.

The rise of video slots
Video slots brought gaming well and truly into the modern world in the late 70s, when a prototype machine utilising a modified 19" Sony Trinitron color display first wowed the gamers of the Las Vegas strip.

Every hotel in Las Vegas has a sizable collection of slot machines. Pictured: The Venetian Las Vegas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Every hotel in Las Vegas has a sizable collection of slot machines. Pictured: The Venetian Las Vegas. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Using digital displays in place of physical reels, video slots now enjoy major popularity in the world?s casinos, and are the main slot machine format in a number of markets, notably including Australia.

Logging on – Online pokies go live
Fast forward to 2013 and the face of gaming has changed totally. Those big old one-armed bandits are still standing and popular as ever in our drinking dens, casinos and arcades, but the widest range of slots can be found at online casinos like the notable collection expanding at Jackpot Capital (online slots). Free from the constraints of mechanical production, digital online slots offer just about as many themes, configurations and prizes as their programmers can dream up. With the pokies of the 21st Century, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Game on.