What Drives a Slot Machine?

There’s something universally appealing about slot: a simple game that can be played with just cash or, in ticket-in, ticket-out machines, a paper ticket with a barcode. The machine then processes a thousand mathematical calculations per second, and, if a combination of identical symbols line up, the player earns credits according to the machine’s pay table. Themes vary, from classic fruit, bells and stylized lucky sevens to branded games based on TV shows and musical artists, and cutting-edge 3D graphics are often used to enhance the experience.

The technology that drives a slot has evolved over the years from purely mechanical designs to computer-based video games. The key component of a slot is the Random Number Generator (RNG) that determines the outcome of a spin as soon as the player presses the “spin” button. It’s this software that makes sure that each spin is fair and that every symbol has the same chance of appearing as any other on any reel.

Modern machines use step motors to rotate the physical reels, but they’re not pre-programmed to pay out at a certain time; they are simply controlled by short digital pulses that move each step motor a set increment with precision. This is why we sometimes have hot streaks of winning, followed by cold spells where you lose more than you win. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to know your budget and play within it.