Slot Machines Are Amazingly Efficient Wage Suckers

You might know it as the puggy, the fruit machine, the one-armed bandit, the three-eyed savings buster — we made that last one up — but we're talking about slot machines: those mechanical gambling cabinets with a hunger for coins and human souls.

After recording this video and the adjacent episode of the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast about slot machines, we're now filled in on the curious history involved here, a history that saw the slot machine transformed from a rather innocuous entertainment gadget to a nefarious coin guzzler.  

For instance, "slot machine" is short for "nickel-in-the-slot machine," perhaps the most Grandpa Simpson thing we've ever heard outside of the cartoon. We're talking the late 1800s here, and many of the early machines paid out in saloon credit, drinks or smokes. Really, they had more in keeping with trivia night at your local pub.

Over the decades to follow, the machines evolved to the point that these gaudy automatons have accounted for as much as 70 percent of the average U.S. casino's income [source: Cooper]. Remember: The house always wins. 

Speaking of personification, we also were amazed to see blatant (and weird) humanization of slot machines back in the 1950s. You can find some photos of the machines in this STBYM blog post, but we're talking humanoid mannequins with slot machines implanted in their torsos: a masked Old-West outlaw and a blond bombshell.