Why so fruity? Why slot machines use fruit icons

Written by Super User. Posted in Texas Holdem


Going digital was a catalyst for big changes in the world of slot machines.

You can now find online video slots boasting arcade-style bonuses, snazzy soundtracks, intricate storylines and even comical characters – features which the old-school fruity could only dream of.

But despite this rapid gaming renaissance, one thing remains: modern slots are still packed to bursting with fruit. Here’s the juice on just why cherries, lemons, pineapples and melons, are all sweet favourites when it comes to slot machine symbols.

Chew on this: the early bubble-gum dispenser

The slot machine has a long history. The earliest models came into play somewhere during the late 19th century, brought out in the bustling bars of New York City. Compared to the machines available these days, they were primitive inventions – but the fundamental concept was there: players put in a coin, pulled a lever, and crossed their fingers in the hope of landing a reward.

To avoid the strict anti-gambling regulations in force across many States at the time, however, most of these initial games (such as the Trade Simulator) did not offer cash prizes. Believe it or not, along with cigars, food and free drinks, bubble gum was a popular choice of pay-out, which kept game providers out of any legal trouble.

This is where the fruit comes in. The fruit symbols of these ‘bubble-gum dispensers’ were a necessary means of showing which fruity-flavoured, chewy prize a player bagged. For example, bright-yellow lemon symbols signalled the arrival of a lemon-flavoured stick of gum. It was that simple. This was also where the BAR came from, derived from an old logo for the Bell-Fruit Gum company.

The Liberty Bell: the cherry on top

It’s almost impossible to talk about these early models without bringing up Charles Fey’s iconic Liberty Bell, often referred to as the first ever slot machine.

Although this mechanical slot did not actually incorporate fruit symbols, his next popular design, The Operator Bell, certainly did. Over 300,000 of these beauties were brought into circulation during the 1910s, all boasting the cherry symbols that have since become a casino staple.

It was Fey’s mega-popular inventions which pushed gambling machines into mass production. Even when gambling laws prohibited the machines in his hometown, he rolled out his idea elsewhere. The games proved astonishingly popular across the country and, as Fey struggled to meet rising demand, other game developers – keen to cash in on the hype – soon brought out their own versions. Despite slight differences, these manufacturers’ copies continued to use Fey’s classic bar and fruit symbols even if gum was off the table.

The fruity: a sweet hit with the Brits

As you’d expect, it was not long before the slot craze found its way across the Atlantic.

Somewhere during the 1950s, slot machines started popping up in the pubs and seaside arcades of Britain. By the time the sixties rolled around, they were commonplace – providing entertainment for punters and a tidy source of profit for pub landlords everywhere. ‘Hold’ and ‘nudge’ bonus features were added, with laws in the UK stipulating that, as long as a certain degree of skill was demanded, cash payouts could be made. Nevertheless, the fruit symbols remained, and it was on British soil that the term ‘fruity’ was first coined.

Not bitter yet: ongoing demand for fruity games

Inevitably, advancements in technology took the slot machine online on the approach to the new millennium; this move into the virtual world not only saw the slot rise in popularity (by increasing accessibility), but allowed game developers to create more innovative features and daring designs.

However, though today’s slot innovators are always looking for new ways to shake up the player’s experience, you only have to take a quick browse through an online casino like bgo slots to know retro slots are still in hot demand. From the upbeat Fruit Shop, to the turbocharged Wild Play SuperBet, fruit symbols are one way of paying homage to the classic slot machine whilst still throwing in all the flashy modern extras that this generation of players have come to love and expect.