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Online Slots: The Technology Behind One Of The World’s Most Popular Game

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Slot machines have served as a source of entertainment to many for over a century. They’ve gone through many different changes over the years, from the early days of simple three-reeled one-arm bandit machines that returned items like bubble gums and cigars to occupying the floors of some of the world’s most renowned five-star resorts, and now to being arguably the most played casino game online. Nowadays, you’ll most likely find more slot lovers than those who love to play online tables at casino sites.

This article takes a look at the changes slots went through and the technology that has shaped the game to what it has become today.

Pre 20th Century Slot Machines

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The first set of machines were fully mechanical.  They featured rotating gears and a shaft in the middle. Back then, you had to pull the lever for the reels to spin. It had a cam that was responsible for this action.

The reels were held by discs with notches. Unfortunately, the mechanical nature of these machines presented durability concerns. Also, these machines could be tampered with, posing concerns about fair play. You could easily alter the outcome of a spin by reordering the symbols on the reels, and non-winning outcomes could trigger a payout when the discs are replaced with a couple notches.

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The 20th Century Slot Machine

The first electromagnetic machine was born in 1963. Here, motors and electromagnets replaced the gears and cam in the older slot machines. Levers were also replaced with buttons as the mechanical arms were no longer needed to jack up the equipment. The 20th century slot machine marked the beginning of the automatic systems we now enjoy today.

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It wasn’t until the 1970s though when engineers incorporated computer technology into slot machines. The first video slot was launched in 1976 and it eliminated the mechanical reels with a computer screen.

The popularity of video slots went through the roof shortly after and slots quickly filled the gaming floor of casinos across the globe. As computer technology began to improve, so did video slots. The machines soon featured animations, soundtracks, and video clips which added more excitement to slots, and consequently made it a fan-favorite at the brick-and-mortar.

Online slots

Online casinos took off in the late 90s and gradually became the most popular slots. Due to the increased popularity of video slots, online casino operators bought the right to upload the already available software programs on their website. This helped them to tweak and reproduce many different versions of slots online.

Today, we now have dedicated gaming studios who create multiple slots every year. With more advanced features like 3D graphics and thematic content being introduced, online slots are likely to increase in popularity as the years go by.

The Technology Behind Online Slots

  1. RNG

You’ve probably heard of the term “RNG” on online casino review sites. RNG stands for Random Number Generator and is the most essential technology behind online slots. It is a software that ensures that the outcome of each spin is randomly determined, and not by any orderly sequence. This software mimics the random outcomes of earlier machines except that in this case, they are extremely difficult to tamper with.

RNG ensures that slots games are played fairly without any interference. The principle behind random number generation is that the exact combination of symbols do not yield the same outcomes from game to game, although the results are always according to a laid out mathematical formula that determines the frequency and payout value.

The system generates 100 numbers randomly and the RNG software translates these numbers into images which appear on the game screen.

  • Audio-visual technology

Audio-visuals are probably the biggest selling point of online slots. Back in the 70s, the images on video slots were divided into simple pixels. But today, the images are more aesthetically pleasing.

The more recent games incorporate the HTML5 design technology which makes them compatible with different screen sizes. As a result, they are now available for play on mobile devices.


In over a 100 years, slots have morphed into one of the most exciting and eye-catching games thanks to modern day technology. Although slot machines have retained their essential look and style of play, they have adapted well into the modern day digital sphere.

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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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