History of EGMs

The first gaming machine, ‘Liberty Bell’, was designed by American Charles Fey in 1887 (although some sources contend it didn’t appear until 1895). It was operated by inserting a coin in the slot and pulling the handle to spin the three reels. Getting three bell symbols gave you the top prize and coins were dispensed from the machine.

These types of machines found their way to Australia in the early 1900s. At this time poker machines were illegal and so patrons were forced to the back rooms of gambling establishments to play them. It wasn’t until 1956 that poker machines became legal in Australia, with New South Wales being the first state to allow registered clubs to operate gaming machines. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the other states (except Western Australia) followed suit and legalised pokies in pubs and clubs in their jurisdictions.

At this point poker machines remained largely unchanged and were based on Fey’s early design of the lever-activated, mechanically-geared, spring-loaded, spinning-reel machine.

In the 1960s, however, we saw the first notable evolution of the ‘pokie’ when springs and mechanical gears were replaced and the poker machine became an electro-mechanical device. The electro-mechanical pokie enabled the introduction of new sound and lighting effects, which made them more exciting.

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that we saw some really significant changes to the poker machine’s design and look, thanks to computer technology and display screens. The video poker machine revolutionised the industry. Computer technology gave manufacturers more ability to be creative and come up with many new player-enticing game features, sounds and interactive graphics.

Today, we continue to see technology driving gaming machine design, with manufacturers trying to find the next big thing that gets the players’ attention. At any industry show we’ll see manufacturers displaying innovations like new designs for cabinets, display screens, toppers, high resolution and 3D graphics with mesmerising lighting effects and surround sound, to name a few.

Some of the main advances in gaming machine design over the last 40 years were:

  • Physical reels to virtual reels displayed on CRT (cathode ray tube) screens, which became large, high-definition, LCD (liquid crystal display)
  • Computer-based microprocessor technology and Random Number Generators (RNG)
  • Game graphic display – backlit artwork printed on plastic panels to interactive high-definition video screens
  • Complex sound and lighting effects
  • Credit input options – coins, tokens, note acceptors, TITO (Ticket In, Ticket Out)
  • Game design – more complex games with multiple play lines, jackpots, free spins, interactive features and themed games, and
  • Embedded customer loyalty systems.

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