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The first slot machines appeared in the late 19th century. Often called 'one armed bandits' from the side lever which was used to operate them, they became more elaborate in design, evolving from 3 reels to 4, 5 and occasionally more, with symbols from playing card suits, the famous liberty bell, and of course various types of fruit (indeed in the UK they were later known as 'fruit machines').

Winnings would usually be despatched in coins when players got a combination of the same symbol across three or more reels, but as the machines became more complex, various different 'paylines' were introduced meaning many more combinations could lead to a payout.

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The first true video slots appeared in the 1970s; these avoided the mechanical issues that could dog multi-reel games, not to mention featuring improved security and most important for players, vastly improved playability. By the 1990s many video slots featured 'second screens', giving bonus rounds to players and increasing winnings.

The arrival of the internet in the mainstream at around the same time kicked off a revolution here as much as in all other areas of life and means that you no longer need to take a trip to your local casino or other entertainment outlet, nor physically feed coins or tokens into the machine. Playing from the comfort of your own home is now a reality, as testified by the huge proliferation of online slot developers such as NetEnt and IGT and the equally vast range of global online casinos such as Spin Palace and Mr Green.

The internet has also led to much greater winnings, with progressive jackpots adding up across different games over longer time periods, and generous welcome bonuses and free spins offered by all the big casinos being the norm. Indeed at the time of writing, jackpots in the millions of dollars have been reached; imagine taking all that home with you in coins!

Online casinos generally publish their returns to player, in other words the amount a player can expect to win over time, leading to greater transparency and more generous payouts.

The playability has also come on in huge leaps and bounds since the early days, with paylines (possible winning combinations) numbering as many as 20 or more, autoplay and max bet features which take some of the hard work away from you, and highly sophisticated Wild and Scatter symbols all contributing to a great experience.

Not only that, but the theme designs are unrecognisable from those fruits and horseshoes of old. Vampires, Zombies, Rich Kids and Batman have all had the slot machine treatment recently, and there is even a South Park-themed online slot. At the same time if you prefer the traditional layout you will find that in abundance as well.

As well as the graphics, sophisticated soundtracks and gripping sound effects abound, though unlike a 'bricks and mortar' casino you can also turn these off if you want some peace and quiet!

And if you are new to slots, you can usually play for free as long as you want to get a feel for a game and decide if you like it.

All a far cry from the noisy, garish, low-paying and temperamental slot machines of old!



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