The first machine resembling the slot machine was invented in 1891 by Pitt and Sittman in New York. This early model had five spinning drums that displayed poker hands. There was no payback mechanism. As a result, businesses that bought the machines paid out with their own prizes for the winners. Usually, these were free drinks.

Charles Fey, though, made the first true “slot” machine, with a pay slot built into it. The machine was called the Liberty Bell. It was not until several years later, though, that the idea caught on and they showed up at a Las Vegas hotel.

Fay’s early machine didn’t have the fruit symbols associated with many of today’s slot machines. It had, instead, horseshoes, a star, and playing card suits. Winners received a 50 cent payout–which was not bad money at the time. In fact, it was enough money that it caught a lot of people’s attention.

Fey later made the Operator Bell slot machine. This one featured the fruit design we’ve all come to know since then. That’s when they started proliferating–and as a result, when anti-slot machine feelings began to increase.

By 1909, slot machines were outlawed in Fey’s hometown of San Francisco. Two years later, they were banned by the entire state. Still, in the cities, where gambling was a mainstay, such as Vegas and Atlantic City, the popularity of slots only grew.

Decades later, in the 1960s, slot machines became electrically powered, with the Bally Company leading the way. And by the ‘80s, Bally continued taking the lead by leading the revolution in electronic slot machines. Soon, all casinos had slots powered by microchips. Casinos received more profits from the machines since they were less expensive to produce.

Today, you can see slot machines in casinos, but also at truck stores and even in convenience stores. It just depends on local laws what kind of payout the machines offer. For instance, if it’s an area where all gambling or slot-machine gambling is illegal, then a business can have a slot machine if the prizes are not cash payouts.

More recently, slot machines have made their way to the Internet. Online slots are one of the most popular forms of gaming online. There are paying slots, as with most other online casino games.

However, increasingly popular are the free slot games online. Any self-respecting addict of the game will want to take advantage of this opportunity, just for fun to see how much he would have won. Also, it’s a great way for slots beginners to get a feel for how the games play and how the betting goes. It also takes some intimidation away from him when he’s ready to play the real thing.

It’s hard to imagine how slot machines might continue to evolve in the future. What kind of graphics or sound effects might come soon, or what new rules might be developed? One thing’s for sure: As technology goes, slots won’t be far behind.