Online slots articles 8

Charles Fey: Slot Machine Inventor

Charles Fey was born August Fey on February 2nd, 1862 in Bavaria. The youngest of 16 children in his family, Charles Fey moved to Munich when he was just 14 to work in a factory producing farm tools. Charles left Germany for America, stopping in both France and England along the way where he worked in mechanics and instrument making. Charles arrived in San Francisco in 1885 where he made a living at the California Electric Works Company whilst spending his spare time developing his idea for a coin operated game with cash winnings. In 1887 he completed his first slot machine which differed from other ‘trade stimulator’ games already in existence because Charles Fey’s invention would pay out cash prizes rather than just one merchandise prize on lining up a poker suit.

Charles Fey’s game consisted of three spring mounted reels each with a combination of 10 symbols, many of these symbols are still seen on slot machines today; bells, hearts, diamonds, horseshoes and spades. In this particular game, it was a full set of bells that gave the pay out and so the game became known as a ‘bell machine’, or ‘Liberty Bell slot machine’. Unlike modern pub versions of the game, the original model, as can still be seen in some casinos, was operated by inserting a coin and pulling down an arm or lever in order to start the reels spinning – hence the name ‘one armed bandit’.

The game took off right away, with saloon owners taking an immediate interest in the new invention. Charles Fey was able to supply a number of local bars with the machines from which he would receive 50% of the profits, but soon the popularity of the machines spread and in 1907 Charles Fey went into partnership with Herbert Mills of the Mills Novelty Company. Within 3 years of this partnership an even bigger game had been developed; the ‘Operators Bell Machine’. This machine boasted 20 different symbols on each reel rather than 10. It was at this stage of development that different types of fruit were included as symbols, hence another name for slot machines being, ‘fruit machines’. Due to the manufacturing capability of Mills Novelty Company, 30,000 of these machines were produced! The popularity of the slot machine is attested to today by 80% of Vegas casino profits being made from slot machines. When Bugsy Siegal introduced the first models to Las Vegas whilst they were still illegal in 1940, four years prior to Charles Fey’s death, he thought he was bringing a cute alternative for those who wouldn’t play at the tables; today, they are more popular, more profitable and more available than any table games.

Charles Fey had been diagnosed with tuberculoses when he was just 25; he was given 1 year to live. Charles Fey did not give up, he fought the disease, went on to marry a native Californian with whom he had 3 children, and ultimately revolutionize automated gaming and the casino world.

Marissa Patterson