Did you know that a car mechanic in San Francisco invented the first slot machine at the end of the 19th century to stop his customers from getting bored? And Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell slot proved so popular, he decided to quit his day job and start his own slot company.
Fey’s first machines boasted 3 reels and each of these was adorned with 5 symbols. Even though slot machines have evolved a lot since then, Fey’s symbols are still used today. To gain a better understanding of slot symbols, let’s look at their evolution, from the basic symbols used by Fey, to some of the more striking ones around at Kingcasino.com today.
There were 5 symbols on each reel of the Liberty Bell: spades, hearts, diamonds, horseshoes and, of course, liberty bells. However, slot symbols changed in 1909 after a new law in San Francisco made gambling illegal as slots could no longer pay out money. But by inventing machines that paid out in things like gum, Fey and other slot manufacturers found a way to get around this ban. Gambling connotations were removed from the reels, too, and thus fruit – which represented different flavours of gum – replaced the playing card symbols (and, as a result, the name ‘fruit machine’ was born). Further symbols were added by the Mills Novelty company over the next few years, including the bar symbol and the jackpot symbol.
Slot symbols changed dramatically after the invention of the first video slot in 1976 because slots were no longer dependent on mechanical reels. Powered by computers, video slots boasted computer animation, more paylines and bonus functions; thus, many more symbols were created. Wilds, scatters and bonus symbols became the norm in most games and since video slots were also home to a much wider variety of themes, the symbols started to become more diverse. For instance, Irish-themed slots boast things like rainbows, leprechauns and pots of gold.
Nowadays most of us play slots from mobile devices and even though today’s slots still contain symbols from classic and video slots, they also have their own unique ones. If you play a classic 3-reel slot, you’ll still see bells, fruit, bars and jackpot symbols. And, if you play today’s video slots, you’ll still come across playing cards. In fact, cards usually act as the lower symbols in modern games, while theme-related characters form the higher ones. For instance, in NetEnt’s Narcos slot, landing 5 card suit symbols only pays out 2 or 3 times your bet, but agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy award you up to 15 times your stake.
Although the slot symbols used in the earliest slots still appear in most slots today, they have been joined by many other ones such as wilds, scatters, bonus symbols and theme-related symbols. In the future, slots will probably still have some of these symbols, but they’ll also contain many more.