Why so fruity? The history of the fruit machine
Flashing lights, ringing bells, juicy cherries, zesty lemons, holds, nudges and win streaks — there’s lots to love about the fruit machine. But how did this staple of British pubs and seaside arcades come about? It all began in the USA over a century ago, with the invention of the fruity’s cousin: the slot machine.
Invention of the Liberty Bell
In 1918, Charles Fey unveiled the famous Liberty Bell, history’s first slot machine. Early gamblers could pull the Liberty Bell’s mechanical lever for the chance win a cash pay-out, by landing a matching row of diamond, heart, horseshoe, spade or bell symbols across the machine’s three reels.
The Liberty Bell proved hugely popular in the bars of Fey’s hometown of San Francisco. In fact, the inventor was soon struggling to meet demand. Other manufacturers were quick to cash in on the opportunity, bringing out their own slot machines across America.
To avoid the gambling restrictions in some states however, many of these copycat machines paid out in things like food and cigars, rather than cash. Believe it or not, one of the most common prizes was chewing gum. This is the reason behind the introduction of the now-iconic cherry, lemon and orange fruit symbols. The fruit symbols on the reels showed which flavour chewing gum you could win if you hit a lucky spin.
The line between gambling and vending machine blurred, and the slot started popping up in everyday places like supermarkets, where it was enjoyed by the masses.
UK puts its own spin on the slot
Having proven so popular in the USA, slot machines soon made their way across the Atlantic. By the 1960s, they could be found in pubs, arcades and chips shops across the UK. Though they no longer had to pay out in chewing gum, the tradition for fruit symbols continued and the machines became known as fruit machines (or ‘fruities’) amongst us Brits.
However, there was one stipulation slot machines had to adapt to in the UK. The law stated that for players to be able to win a cash prize, the game must involve an element of skill. This led to the innovation of bonus features like holds, nudges and win streaks in fruit machines, which required the player to do more than just hit a spin button.
British gamblers couldn’t get enough of the fruity. It became a big part of British culture, and it continues to entertain hundreds of punters every day.
Fruity moves with the times
Whilst the classic fruit machine lives on, many gamblers now play online rather than in pubs and seaside arcades. There’s a wealth of fruit machines to choose from at online casinos like bgo.com these days, including Jackpot Cherries and Money Matrix. Some of these game boast a few modern twists. Nevertheless, you can still expect classic holds, nudges, win streaks and fruit symbols to delight you as you play online on your PC or smartphone.