Slot machines are synonymous with gambling. Most recreational gamblers have spent time in front of one of these games. It's hard to believe they started life as an afterthought, meant to entertain spouses while high rollers dropped small fortunes at table games. They've grown to become the most popular game on a casino's floor, making up about 70 to 80 percent of the gambling industry's profits.
When Charles Fey perfected the forerunner of the modern slot machine in 1895, the games were mechanical devices. The first games were limited to three reels and five symbols. This setup provided the upper limit of outcomes a mechanical device could track. The new form of gaming proved quite popular, leading game makers to look for ways to improve the excitement.
The advent of computers made slots the gambling juggernaut they are today. New computer chips transformed slot machines from mechanical cabinets into video games. The computer can track many more symbols and reels, allowing even higher jackpots. They've also made slots safer, more reliable, and more honest.
The major electronic innovation that makes video slots possible is the Random Number Generator, or RNG. The RNG is a special computer chip that generates random numbers every microsecond. It constantly generates these numbers, even when no one is playing the game.
Each of these random numbers corresponds to a specific outcome of the machine. The second a player presses the stop button, the RNG grabs the random number of that microsecond and compares it to an outcome list.
Whatever outcome matches the computer's listed random number is the result of that spin. RNGs have made slot machines truly random games. Thanks to this microchip, each spin of the reels is unique.
Computer chips have also made slot machines more exciting. No longer is the number of symbols dictated by the size of the reels. The reels are now totally digital. The downside to this is higher odds of winning a jackpot, possibly as unlikely as 1 in 16 million. However, there's an upside. With the odds of winning so high, slot machines can offer even higher payouts than ever before. Progressive video slots especially can hold jackpots of truly staggering size as the prize money grows.
More honest gaming is another perk from playing online slot machines. This is also thanks to the RNG. The RNG is the only thing that determines the outcome of a slot machine. Casinos have no control or contact with the computer chip. The microchip is programmed, locked, and installed by the manufacturer. The microchip can't even be reprogrammed; if a casino wishes to change the payout percentage of a slot machine, it must replace the RNG. Replacement microchips are incredibly expensive, and most gambling regulatory commissions require lots of paperwork before the computer chips can be switched. Usually, casinos prefer to choose the payout percentage when purchasing the machines, and trust the manufacturer to install the correct chip.
There's more to video slots than just watching reels spin, too. The games themselves have changed, in addition to the machine's inner workings. Most video slot machines include bonus rounds, offering a new dimension of fun. These bonus rounds often take the guise of mini-video games. Game show episodes, matching games, fighting games, mazes – there's no end to the number of forms a bonus round could take. These mini-games are not only fun, but they also offer even more chances to win money.
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