Slot machines (or Fruit machines) sprang from the same idea that gave us video poker, and its evolution is interwoven with that of video poker. The original automated game which behaved like a slot machine was actually a poker game. Developed by Sittman and Pitt, a New York based company, the machine contained 5 drums holding a total of 50 card faces. The player would insert a coin and pull the handle to spin the cards. When the spinning drums stopped they would reveal a winning or losing combination of cards.
This idea was taken further by a San Francisco mechanic, Charles Fey, who also improved the Sittman and Pitt’s poker machine by introducing the draw and hold function. Fey’s slot machine was simpler - he reduced the number of possible winning combinations by using only three reels and five symbols on each: horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a Liberty Bell, which became the name of the machine. By making the rules of the slot machines easier for the punter to understand it allowed the machine to make automatic payouts on all winning combinations, with three Bells in one line producing the biggest payoff, ten nickels. The machine quickly gained popularity across the U.S.
Another early slots machine gave out winnings in fruit flavoured chewing gum. The reels had fruit symbols, cherry and melon, and a BAR symbol. BAR was an early form of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company logo. Nowadays these are iconic fruit machine symbols.
The first electromechanical machine was introduced by Bally in 1964. The machine was called Money Honey and it changed Las Vegas. Using an electric hopper Money Honey could return payouts of hundreds of coins instead of the twenty or so dispensed by the mechanical models.