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The Interesting Story of the Slot Machine

Of all the games in the casino, the slot machine probably has the most interesting story to tell. Not literally, though, but the history of the slot machine is one for Ripley's Believe It or Not, aside from the fact that it is also called the "one-armed bandit."

The slot machine had its humble beginnings near the end of the 19th century, in 1887 to be exact. It was invented by a man named Charles Fey. Fey was born in Bavaria (now Germany) in 1862, the youngest of 16 children. Fey's interests were in mechanical devices and he soon migrated to the United States and later found a job with the California Electric Works Company in San Francisco.

In 1885, Charles Fey began working on a coin-operated game machine during his spare time. Other coin-operated machines were already available during those times but these did not give out any cash prizes. However, in 1887 Fey was struck ill with tuberculosis. Instead of giving up, Fey continued work on his mechanical brainchild and finished the invention in the same year.

The first slot machine was quite primitive compared to today's modern slot machines. However, the basic principles remain the same - to give a payout when a winning combination of the symbols show up on the screen. Just like modern slot machines, Fey's original slot machine had one arm or lever as the mechanism to start the game and had three reels with ten symbols. Some of the original symbols such as hearts, bells and spades are still in use today. The Liberty Bell Slot Machine, as it was called, paid out winnings when a line of three bells showed up.

Fey's invention was an instant sensation in local salons in and outside California. Fey manufactured the slot machines himself until 1907, when the demand for slot machines grew so big that he took a partner, Herbert Mills, to help him produce the machines. The company, Mills Novelty Company, manufactured the slot machines until over 30,000 machines were produced and sold.

The original Bell Machine soon gave birth to other spin-offs, such as the Operator Bell Machine, which has twice as many symbols per reel, and the Fruit Machine, which used fruits as symbols.

As an interesting side note, Charles Fey was given one year to live after he was struck with tuberculosis, but he survived the odds and lived a long, happy life. His machine, too, survived the odds and is now a permanent fixture in casinos all over the world. The slot machine continues to evolve as more reels, paylines and symbols were introduced to make the game more exciting and enjoyable.

So the next time you play on a slot machine, be thankful to the man who invented it, though you may not remember his name. You, too, can beat the odds playing in a slot machine, just like Charles Fey.

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