Fruit machines, a comprehensive history

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The Growth of the Fruit Machine Summary

Many people might confuse the fruits machines history with the slots machines. These machines evolved from the fun slots machines that were invented in 1887, however some people believe that the slots machine was invented in 1895. The renowned Charles Fey designed the first ever slots machine. He was the one to spread this gambling device worldwide. Along the way the slots symbols changed and eventually became to have its own famous fruit symbols. When the 1900’s started the slots machines had become the hottest gambling device on the market which at first women enjoyed to play more than men. With time the battle of the sexes of the slots machines have changed as today the majority are men that are playing slots.

How did the famous fruit symbols come about?

The original slots design was quite dull or perhaps we should say, simple. Like anything, things develop and so did the symbols in the slots machine and this is how the famous fruit symbols came to be known world wide. The new design of symbols included fruit, bars and the well known 7s on the slots. Before the 1960’s there were no legislations on gambling. The lawmakers in the 60’s decided that there is no need to be an element of skill for any gambling game to become legal. This meant that as long as players could win a prize on the slots with absolutely no skill required  and a “no-cheating” mechanism installed, then the slots machine could become legalized.

The new improved fruit machines became the “in thing” in drinking cultures. Pubs and clubs took these machines onboard and people have been having a blast ever since. Why were they so popular one might wonder, well, from what it seems, no skill is required, you can simply sit down, relax, take a chance on a bet and let the reels spin you some winnings.

In the early days of the fruit machines, they would not pay out cash to the players. They would give prizes in form of different gifts such as chewing gum, beverages and tobacco.

The fruit machines continued to be played by people all the way into the 1990’s where they still proved to be a hit during the early days of the online casinos. Fruit machines are still to this day a very popular choice and due to the gaming providers they continue to be kept alive by being released in a newer version.

“Call me old-fashioned but I love anything rusty, chipped, weathered and vintage.”

The History of the Fruit Machines

Who was Charles Fey? 

Charles Fey was the inventor of the great slots machine, born on February 2, 1862, in a tiny village in Germany called Vohringen. He was the youngest out of 15 siblings who came from a rather poor family. His interest in inventions came from his first experience in working with mechanicals when he was a young teenager. His older brother Edmund had a tool factory in Munich where Charles would help out a lot and became very handy with the tools.

When Charles was 15 he left for France and worked as an intercom equipment manufacturer. Not long after this, he moved to the big smoke, London, England. Charles continued his adventures at the age of 23 and moved to New Jersey in the US to follow his uncle’s footsteps.

He continued to venture across to San Francisco, California where he fell in love with Marie Volkmar. Soon after Marie and Charles got married he and a friend Theodore Holtz quit their jobs and opened up their own manufacturing company. This is where the slots machine “Liberty Bell” was born. After Liberty Bell’s success Charles decided to open up his own slots machine company. Due to his successful invention, a plaque to Charles Fey was made for the first ever made slots machine ‘Liberty Bell’ being created and was put in San Francisco in 1980 at E Campus close to Charles’s factory.

Unfortunately, California Historical Landmark 937 replaced the plaque. Charles’s father decided then to place his plaque on their old house, Charles’s birthplace, to remember Charles for his successful invention.
1887 to 1895

No one really knows exactly when German Charles Fey invented the slots machine but it’s said to be anytime between 1887 to 1895. As Charles did not have a patent on his invention, shortly after his great success, New Yorkers Sittman and Pitt developed his slots machine further, in 1891. This upgrade gave the slots machine an extra edge with it’s 5 drums and 50 poker cards. The upgraded machine became very popular in drinking cultures where people had a tendency to gamble. At the time slots players only needed a nickel to play and pull the lever to get the reels rolling.

A payout would be made when a poker hand was lined up on the reels but it would not be in cash, as back in the day the prizes were gifts that could be picked up in the bar. 

1902 to 1908

During this time Liberty Bell was continued to being manufactured but with no cash wins the birth of the fruit machine era began. Herbert Mills in 1907 created a fruit machine in Chicago called ‘Operator Bell’. This fruit machine became highly popular in shops, hair salons and bowling alleys.

The Fruit Machine Era

For many more years the fruit machine remained in stores and shops. Being a mechanical game you had to pull down a lever to set the reels in motion to being playing. Inside the machine a stretch spring would eventually stop the reels from spinning. This gave the player a ‘placebo’ effect as they got the feeling that they were controlling the fruit machines.


Welcome to the world of video slots! Here is where the modernization of slots began thanks to Bally who made an electromechanical slots machine called ‘Money Honey’. With slots machines now being operated electronically the hype over slots machines became even bigger. You still had to pull the lever but the electric screens made the slots game more enticing. You could now experience slots with colourful graphics and audio effects. Most importantly you could now have an automatic payout of up to 500 coins. Shortly after the ‘Money Honey’ was invented the lever would disappear.

1976 to 1978

The Las Vegas based gambling company Fortune Coin manufactured the first video slots machines. You could now play the video slots on a 19 inch Sony TV. It became the first available video slot to try out at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. As the slots machine had evolved so needed the Gaming Commissions. To avoid people stealing money the Nevada State Gaming Commission had to cheat proof the video slots with some modifications. After this cheat proofing modification being implemented, the video slots machines spread across the Las Vegas Strip.


This is year where WMS Industries Inc. released “Reel ‘Em”, the first video slots games with a mini-bonus round feature. This bonus feature allowed the players to play on a second screen when the bonus round was triggered. During this bonus round the players could win additional amounts of cash. Due to this new upgrade the casino industry got about 70% of their earnings from the “Reel ‘Em” video slots machines.

From Fruit Machines to Online Slots

The mid 1990’s brought the massive new discovery of the internet. This allowed the casino companies to move from land based machines to online based slots games. This was definitely not the end of the fruit machines even though the gaming providers released modernized slots games, the classical fruit machine proved to still be a favorite online.

“A classic never dies.”

Not only did slots venture into the online world but the other gambling games such as roulette, blackjack and other classical casino games joined in on the new online adventure.

The style of online slots games stayed very similar to the land bases slots but only for a little while. They had the same amount of reels and similar symbols to play with. Soon after the computer restrictions were removed, gaming providers started to bombard the online casinos with new exciting games.

New interesting graphics, themes and layouts made the online casino companies flourish rapidly. The fruit machines were still popular even though the new games had been released into the wild world of online casino games. Due to its popularity the gaming providers decided to keep the fruit slots and simply just give them a cool upgrade. You can still play to this day the classical fruit slots but you can also play the new and improved fruit slots with new bonus features that can benefit a lot more from.

Nowadays, the variety is so big that you can find online slots with more than five reels and up to hundreds of paylines to make a bet on.

Even though the fruit slots machines are becoming more limited with new and improved slot games with bonus features being released, they are still adamant to keep its classical vibe and rules so they don’t lose the special touch of the original fruit slot. We should never forget the roots of our inventions. It’s important to keep it alive by respecting the inventors vision.

With over 100 of developers alive now to please the online gambling industry you can find anything from smaller software providers to the big dominating giants in the online casino world. The biggest and the oldest one in the iGaming industry is software developer Microgaming. They have an online slots collection of over 500 different kind of game titles.

The first jackpots slots to ever be introduced was ‘Cash Splash’ from Microgaming and it created a wave of excitement for the online slots players. A jackpot meant you could win an outstanding amount from your own home. No more dressing up and prove to others that you are richer or better through putting on a glamour show at a land based casino. You could now become rich as royalty from your own sofa in your pj’s. Isn’t it fantastic?

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