The Evolution of Online Slots: Tracing the Journey from Fruit Machines to Megaways

Online slots, with their captivating graphics and potential for significant payouts, have become a cornerstone of modern gambling entertainment. But what’s the story behind their rise to prominence? This article delves into the fascinating evolution of online slots, tracing their lineage from simple fruit machines to innovative Megaways.

The Birth of the Fruit Machine

The online slot’s earliest predecessor was the fruit machine, also known as the one-armed bandit. This mechanical device featured three or more reels adorned with various symbols. Players would insert a coin and pull a lever, hoping for a winning combination.

In 1891, Sittman and Pitt in New York created the first such machine, featuring five drums and 50 poker-based cards. Winning might earn you a beer or cigar from the hosting establishment, but the lack of a direct payout mechanism made winning a royal flush challenging.

Charles Fey of San Francisco improved upon this design in 1895, reducing the reels to three and using only five symbols, including the Liberty Bell, which gave the machine its name and highest payout. This machine could pay out coins automatically, enhancing its appeal.

As fruit machines gained popularity, some regions’ gambling laws led to the offering of non-cash prizes like chewing gum or sweets. This led to the inclusion of fruit symbols like cherries and plums on the reels.

The Rise of the Online Slot

The fruit machine’s design remained consistent for years until technological advancements ushered in new possibilities. In 1963, Bally’s Money Honey became the first electromechanical fruit machine, capable of paying out 500 coins without assistance.

The first video slot emerged in 1976, developed by Fortune Coin Co. in Las Vegas. Despite initial skepticism, this innovation, using a 19-inch Sony TV for display, quickly gained popularity.

In 1996, WMS Industries introduced the first online slot with a bonus feature, Reel ‘Em In, leading to a proliferation of online slots with diverse themes and features.

Microgaming’s Mega Moolah in 2006 brought the first online progressive jackpot, with its Mega Jackpot starting at $1 million. In 2015, this game set a Guinness World Record for the largest online slot payout of £13.2 million.

The Revolution of the Megaways

The Megaways mechanic, a trademarked system by Big Time Gaming in 2016, represents one of the most thrilling developments in online slots. This random reel modifier alters the number of symbols on each reel with every spin, creating thousands or even millions of winning combinations.

Dragon Born was the first online slot to feature Megaways in 2016, and many others have followed suit. NetEnt’s Fruit Shop Megaways in 2021 is a prime example, blending the classic fruit machine’s simplicity with the modern Megaways mechanic’s excitement.


From their humble beginnings as mechanical fruit machines to the innovative Megaways, online slots have undergone a remarkable transformation. They’ve diversified in themes, features, and payouts, and their accessibility and entertainment value have made them more popular than ever.

Whether you’re playing from home or on the go, online slots offer a thrilling gambling experience and the chance to win life-changing sums with just a few clicks.

For those looking to explore the world of online slots, William Hill Vegas offers a wide selection, including fruit machines, Megaways, and progressive jackpots. With a generous welcome offer and regular promotions, it’s the perfect place to discover the evolution of online slots for yourself!