Fruit Machines


When I was a youngster which is sadly many moons ago, I used to love playing fruit machines. They helped many a holidaymaker waste away a bit of time and a few pennies while waiting for the rain to stop.

They were rather simple games back then with often just the one pay-line to try and get some pocket money out of. But how did fruit machines develop and why fruit in the first place?

Early Days


You have to go back to the start of the 20th century to discover the origins of the name ‘fruit machines’ and how they got this name might surprise you because it’s all down to chewing gum. There had already been slot machines designed by Charles Fey but they used symbols such as the Liberty Bell (see now you know why these games had a bell) and playing card symbols (hence their use in modern day games).

It was O.D. Jennings, owner of the Industry Novelty Company, who began introducing slot machines that had fruit symbols. They weren’t called fruit machines though but a chewing gum dispenser. That’s because they gave out fruit-flavoured chewing gums as prizes and the games used symbols of the fruit. That’s why cherry and melon symbols are used.

They might not be the top of your fruit list (unlike oranges) but they matched those chewing gum flavours. Why did they have to give away fruit-flavoured chewing gum? Well, that was simply used as a way to avoid the laws that were in operation against gambling in many American states. There were other similar games that paid out winnings in the form of cigarettes (try getting away with that these days) and drinks. In time though the law declared them as gambling machines.

Charles Fey then introduced he ‘Operator Bell’ which included fruit symbols and were soon to be found in convenience stores all over America and again dispensing gum.

Evolution


In the 1960s, Bally introduced a fruit machine that worked electromechanically. ‘Money Honey’ included an electric ‘hopper’ that allowed more coins to be held meaning higher jackpots could be paid out.

The popularity of these games spread to the UK in the 1960s and they finally became known as fruit machines. Symbols included strawberries, oranges, lemons, plums and the cherries that always seemed to be the lowest payer. Pretty soon the UK had a a fruit machine in local pubs, clubs, cafes and of course amusement arcades. They didn’t always have massive prizes to win.

Penny Arcades


The ones I used to put my spending money in while on holiday or down the local fair, often only cost 1 or 2p to play so the jackpots weren’t going to win me a fortune. As technology increased so did the pay-lines and there were new features added. Nudge and Hold became popular with players being able to hold a reel (like the Reel Respin feature in modern games) and the Nudge. I still remember bending down and looking up the reels to see if those two nudges I’d been granted might get me some kind of win.

Online Invasion


As slot games became available to play online, there were versions of fruit machines to be found on sites. Again, they became popular to play. As technology moved on though the games became more and more complex. Rather than just having three reels and perhaps just that one pay-line, games could offer a lot more. The number of reels was expanded to five and that meant space for more symbols. Themed games came along, often based on such popular films as ‘Jurassic Park’ or ‘Spiderman’ and that meant the star symbols of the games became characters from movies or whatever the theme was.

If the fruit symbols were to be included in these expanded games that now included second screen bonus games, it was to be as the lower paying symbols. More often though it was the playing card symbols that were given that role.

Retro Feel


It’s impossible to deny the part that fruit machines have played in the history of slot games. It’s always good to pay homage to the past and that’s what modern-day slot designers still do. Microgaming for example produce games such as ‘Joker8000’ and ‘Cherry Red’ providing older players with some pleasant memories of days gone by.

They go back to the days of just three reels and not that many pay-lines but with a slight nod to the current day with a wild symbol (one that substitutes for other symbols to get you winning combinations) included but no bonus games. These games are idea for those players new to the slot world and not quite ready for all the complex ones that require a good read of the rules before daring to put any real cash into them.

Fruit machines will always be a part of the slot industry. Just the sight of a few cherries and oranges can bring back so many memories of how the games we love began all those many years ago but without the slightest sign of any chewing gum as a prize.