What exactly is a fruit machine?Saturday, May 5, 2018 09:00
In a nutshell, a Fruit Machine is a British informal term for a way of describing a slot machine. The term mainly comes from the traditional fruit images that are displayed on spinning reels, such as lemons, plums, and cherries. Fruit machines have a variety of other names they are known by, such as Puggies in Scotland and Pokies in Australia to simply Slot in America.
The first Fruit Machine
The first ever fruit machines appeared in America in the early 20th Century. Precisely when and where nobody really knows but these devices were quite primitive and were known as Trade Simulators. These early machines actually gave out packs of chewing gum whenever you had a win. For instance, if you landed 3 cherries then a packet of cherry-flavoured gum was all yours! Why chewing gum you ask? It was a very clever way for companies to offer these as rewards in order to avoid any anti-gambling laws that existed in America at the time. O.D. Jennings who ran the company who made these machine actually called them “chewing gum dispensers”!
The Liberty Bell
These “chewing gum dispensers” were based on Charles Fey’s hugely successful Liberty Bell slot machine which was released between 1887 and 1895. This machine consisted of three spinning reels with five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, hearts, spades and liberty bells. The bell symbol gave the machine its name of course and this symbol is still extremely popular as it is widely used in a lot of slots these days. Fey's next machine was called the Operator Bell and this was the first machine to incorporate fruit symbols and thus the fruit machine was born!
The Operator Bell
The Operator Bell machine was created in the 1910’s and it was in essence, a slightly modified version of the Liberty Bell machine. Much like its predecessor, it was quite heavy and it weighed over 100 pounds! The main improvement of this machine was that the coin entry fitting was better and it now featured fruit symbols instead of the previous symbols like horseshoes and liberty bells. There were 30,000 of these machines made and these machines became so popular that the term fruit machine became widely used to describe them instead of slot machine.
The Electronic Age
In 1963, Bally created the first fruit machine that worked electromechanically and it was called Money Honey. The only downside of this machine was that payouts had to be given out manually by a human attendant. Another game to emerge from this period was Big Bertha, this machine believe it or not required a 5-horse power engine to power the reels! It contained 160 reel symbols and had up to 8 reels which helped to create some big jackpots. In the years to come, fruit machines suddenly became smaller in size and far more attractive to casinos.
A British Boost
It was in the 1960’s that fruit machines exploded in popularity in Britain, around cities and in particular seaside towns such as Blackpool and Brighton. These machines suddenly started to pop up in pubs, amusement arcades, cafes, and even chippers! They are still a mainstay form of entertainment in pubs these days and the British love for “Fruities” does not seem to be going away anytime soon!