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History of Slot Machine Symbols

History of Slot Machine Symbols

Have you ever heard of a man named Charles D. Fey? It’s alright if you haven’t, as we cannot see many people knowing who the man is, despite his invention of one of the most played gambling games in the history of the world. This man invented the slot machine back in the late 1800s by designing the Liberty Bell machine—a game that would very quickly sweep the world.

It is no exaggeration to say that, without Charles D. Fey, the slot industry may not even exist, and it certainly wouldn’t exist in the same capacity as it does now. But things have changed a lot since the early days of his invention, specifically with the way that slot developers are using symbols. Let’s take a look at the history of slot machine symbols before the best online casino slots surfaced.

The First Slot Machine Symbols

If you want to understand the history of slot machine symbols, the first thing to focus on are the symbols that were used by Charles D. Fey when he originally designed the Liberty Bell slot machine. As you might well garner from the name of his machine, the highest paying symbols available on the reels were the liberty bells themselves, and these subsequently became common high paying symbols in the early days of slots.

Other icons used by Charles D. Fey include standard playing card symbols that were used in the few machines before the Liberty Bell took off and can be still be seen in slot machines today. There were also horseshoes and stars thrown in the mix. When compared to modern slot machines, it is clear that the first slot machine symbols set the blueprint for many other slots that have come after.

Popular Wave of Slot Machine Symbols

Although the Liberty Bell slot quickly swept across California and rest of the US after its creation, it actually took quite a while longer for slots to become commonplace. That is largely because of a gambling ban that lasted until the early to mid-1900s, something that effectively stifled any innovation from slot machine developers.

However, after this was lifted the slot industry underwent a massive expansion, spearheaded by places such as Las Vegas. This, in turn, brought a new wave of symbols that we all know and love, for example the various fruits that are associated with fruit machines.

Video Slots and Evolving Symbols

The discovery of the RNG (Random Number Generator) in the 1980s paved the way for purely digitalized slot machines in the shape of video slots, something that meant that there were an almost infinite set of new possibilities when it came to devising new symbols. While the icons used on slot machines in the past had to be printed on physical metal plates, they could now be programmed with software, meaning that quite literally anything was possible.

This resulted in a number of slots that had icons specialized to their particular theme, something we still see today. The emergence of video slots was a key moment in the continued innovation of slot symbols, you cannot argue with that!


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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.