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History of Slot Machine Symbols

Over the last century or so there really hasn’t been another gambling game to appear quite like slot machines, because these incredible casino gambling machines have quite literally taken the world by storm. This was true towards the end of the 20th century of course, however these days with the arrival of online slots the entire gambling industry relies on slot machine gambling for at least a third of its overall revenue – pretty crazy, right? 

One of the main reasons why slot machines have been so successful over the years is because they are constantly up for technological evolution and innovation. Charles D. Fey’s first Liberty Bell slot machine looks a lot different to the modern online slots made by people like NetEnt, for example, and this is a massive reason why there are so many avid slot gamblers around in the modern world - pay to play now. A great way to exemplify this is with the history of slot machine symbols, so let’s get into it!

The original late 19th century slot machine symbols 

The first commercially successful slot machine was made by a Californian engineer called Charles D. Fey back in the late 1800s, and was called the Liberty Bell after its highest scoring liberty bell symbols. These original slot machines had four other symbols for gamblers to try and match – a horseshoe, diamond, spade and heart. 

As you can see, these original slot machine symbols are things that are still used quite extensively today, with the playing card inspired diamond, spades and hearts being particularly common in a wide range of land-based slot machines and online slots.

Early 20th century slot machine symbol developments 

Funnily enough, back in the late 19th century and early 20th century slot machine gambling was illegal across America, so anybody wanting to spin the reels had to do in secrecy. Despite this slot machines were getting incredibly popular, so it didn’t take long for people to devise legal versions of the games that were free to play and had prizes such as fruit sweets.

This had a knock on effect on the different slot machine symbols in use, as these legal slot machines popularised the fruit icons that we all know and love today. In fact, this is where the popular term “fruit machine” comes from! Yes, slot machines did used to give out fruit as a prize (well, fruit sweets anyway).

Arrival of bonus slot machine symbols

Slot machine gambling hit a peak during the 1960s, and one of the main reasons for this was the fact that developers had managed to devise electronic slot machines, with a game called Money Honey being the first. 

This meant that bonus slot machine symbols were a lot easier to include, and this is where things like wild symbols first started being used.

Modern world of slot machine symbols 

After the invention of the RNG in the 1980s video slots became the norm, and this consequently resulted in all manner of different slot machine symbols being available. 

Developers can program anything they want as a slot machine icon nowadays – the world is quite literally their oyster!


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