Slot machines, fruit machines, pokies, or whatever you call them, have been around for longer than you might think. The first slot machine was built over 120 years ago by an inventive car mechanic, Charles Fay. He adapted the idea of an older gambling machine based on poker, realized a reliable automatic payout system and triggered a new and successful branch of the worldwide industry.
Fruit machines: a fun origin story
American legislation was not too permissive back then, especially when it came to gambling. In several states gambling in any form was prohibited, so Fay has invented another machine – it made the payouts in chewing gum or candy. Pictures of fruit flavors were used as symbols on the reels. Cherry and melon were among the most popular flavors, so these symbols were also popular – these ones made it to the reels of later slot machines, and are seen even nowadays on modern video slots and online slot machines.
The name ‘fruit machine’ comes from these symbols. In British English, slot machines are called usually called ‘fruit machines’ or ‘fruities’, and they can be found in most pubs in the country.
A rose, by any other name…
Other usual symbols on the reels come from a variety of sources. Several of them – horseshoes, number 7, four leaf clover symbols, and others – are believed to bring good luck, others have a longer history – BAR, for instance, was an early logo of the Bell Fruit Gum Company, back when the fruit machine was used as a gum vending machine. BAR also made it to many modern slot machine varieties.
There are many variants of names used for slot machines around the world.
One classic name used for slot machines is ‘one armed bandit’ – classic slot machines have an arm, a lever that has to be pulled for spinning the reels. The ‘bandit’ part refers to the fact that players can sometimes be left without a nickle in their pocket when playing the slots.
In Canada, slot machines are usually referred to as ‘the slots’. In Australia and New Zealand, the usual term is the ‘poker machine’, or simply the ‘pokies‘.
Fruit machines used in British pubs usually have a few extra features that set them apart of the other classic slots. For one, these usually offer the players the possibility to hold one or more of the reels for the next spin. Also, another feature permits nudging a reel a number of times in order to form a winning combination of symbols. Most British fruit machines also offer a side game called ‘money tree’ – a light going up and down on a series of cash prizes and the player has to stop the light – preferably at the highest amount. The amount won is then added to the credits of the player.
Fruit machines or pokies, bandits or not, slots are a fun game to play either at the pub, or in an online casino.