It all began in San Francisco, when a 29-year-old mechanic by the name of Charles
Fey built the first slot machine in history: the Liberty Bell. This invention,
manufactured by hand in a small machine shop, has paved the road to gambling industries
as we know them today. Fey was not only the inventory, but also the first slot
machine operator, a he placed his work of genius in the local gambling palaces.
The history of slot machines has only then begun.
A little smaller than present-day slots, but not any less sophisticated, the first slot machine did not change much over the years; there are only slight changes. The wheels on the first manufactured machines were smaller and had only 10 symbols as compared to the 20 used today. The symbols, however, weren't what we see nowadays; they were the simple, quite common pictures of playing-card symbols, accompanied by horseshoes, bells, and a star - icons of luck. The payout, then was as it is today - cash. When one of the winning combinations was attained, the machine paid out the correct number of coins, as you can see below:
Three bells 10 drinks
Flush of hearts 8 drinks
Flush of diamonds 6 drinks
Flush of spades 4 drinks
Two horseshoes and start 2 drinks
Two horseshoes 1 drink
though the payouts were listed in drinks, the machine's payout mechanism was
in nickels - not so much different from today's payouts, huh? Nickels, quarters
- quarters, nickels… ah, they're both coinage.
You can only imagine what a phenomenon this new invention was in the 19th century. People went crazy about it. In fact, they became so popular that Fey could not keep up with the demand in and around San Francisco. However, he refused all offers made to buy the manufacturing and distribution rights. It was his - and only his - and exclusive to California at that. That is until 1907, when the 'Iron Case' surfaced. Herbert Stephen Mills, a Chicago manufacturer of arcade-type machines, began producing a machine with a similar payout to Fey's. This one, however, was encased in iron, hence the name 'iron case', and was the first slot machine in history to carry the symbols of bars, bells, oranges, lemons, plums, and cherries. By the time 1919 rolled around, you could find a slot machine anywhere in the country.
Today, there is a number of companies producing slot machines, including: Mills and Company (the original), Jennings, Pace, and Bally, the largest of them all. There are also several in Australia and Japan. Undoubtedly, slot machines have become a world-wide phenomenon and one of the most significant additions to gambling palaces in history.