I still remember (ok, dating myself here) when a slot machine was nothing more than a machine you fed coins into that had three physical reels that spun by pulling a lever and stopped spinning based on a random number generator. Based on the pay table, the machine would spit out coins (if you were lucky of course). If you were indeed very lucky and the random number generator favored you, you got to load up a bucket with coins and visit a cashier, who ran them through a machine and handed you your aggregate winnings in the form of paper money.
Boy how things have changed! The premise is the same, but through technology innovation driven by the benefits of data sharing, the experience has changed. Gone are the plunk of the coins that used to hit the bin. Nowadays, think about the data involved with something as simple as playing a slot machine:
1 – You walk up to a machine, you insert a “player’s” card into a slot in the machine. This reads your information so that your interaction with the machine can be recorded by the casino. Play enough and the casino will give you a free buffet, or some other freebie known as a “comp”. This implies a database somewhere that tracks your history, and it means the slot machine’s computer is feeding this data to a central repository somewhere.
2 – Time to put your money in – Paper? Vouchers? The ability to pay has gotten “easier”. Here we see technology enabling ease-of-use, which is geared at better user experience and translates to more plays in shorter amount of time (parallels to EDI anyone?).
3 – You look up to see the current progressive jackpot – a dollar amount that is constantly changing. A dollar amount that is dynamically computed in real-time across an entire family of casinos. This too implies coordination of data from multiple sources, which are aggregated, recorded and sent back to the same systems to provide “fresh data”.
4 – If you win, you print out a voucher that represents money. That voucher is scanned by a machine which pays out the winnings. The machine is reading the barcode and doing a lookup once again to a server that records the payout. Here we see elimination of dirty coins in a way that replaces an almost completely manual analog experience with a more reliable and more efficient digital one (see the EDI parallels?).
By unlocking the data going in and out of these one-armed bandits, one can quickly see the benefits of the “improved” technology (or not if you lose your money as fast I as I did).
I didn’t even mention the crazy digital nature of machines nowadays, along with the bonus games and noises, it’s changed quite a bit. I do miss the loud “plunk” of the coins when you win, but many machines now come preinstalled with high quality speakers that pump out that beautiful sound recorded digitally.
Data sharing, ain’t it grand?