SI Vault
August 17, 1964
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August 17, 1964


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As labor-saving devices go, this one will add a mere footnote to the history of the age of automation, which has scant sentimental interest in the fact that the days of the one-armed bandit are numbered. Since early June the bandit's successor—a no-armed slot machine which requires only that the addict insert a coin to set the cherries and bells a-spinning—has been undergoing a successful trial run in Las Vegas' Thunderbird Hotel. Its inventor, Jack La Vigna, took it out the other day for a final check before tooling up for mass production. Before too long, he believes, Nevada's 18,000 traditional machines will be supplanted by his own, which already has won the approval of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

It has won the approval of casino operators for a number of reasons. For one thing, its smaller depth and width permits the installation of twice as many machines in the same precious casino space. Jackpot payoffs are automatic, making it unnecessary for an attendant to check the symbols and make a manual payment. It has only some 50 working parts to get out of order, as against 2,000 in conventional machines, which is what motivated La Vigna in the first place. He used to repair the one-armed bandits and "got fed up getting out of bed at 4 in the morning to make repairs."

He may, in fact, get little more than extra sleep out of the invention. In the U.S., at least, gambling devices cannot be patented because, to the legal mind, they are not "useful."

Disagreeing with an umpire's decision, Norm Larker, who plays first base for the Tacoma (Wash.) Giants, huffed back to the dugout and established some sort of record there. He hurled 12 bats, uncounted baseballs and eight batting helmets onto the field. Then the umpire threw something. He threw Norm Larker out of the park.


The Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Wyoming has 12,000 unusually difficult little mouths to feed, every one a choosy eater. The mouths belong to a precious batch of pure golden trout, and genetically pure goldens are rare because they crossbreed readily with rainbows and cutthroats, whose genes increasingly dominate succeeding generations. Thus it was a happy day when a survey party found pure goldens in Bull Lake Creek in a primitive area of remote Wind River Reservation. After persuading the resident Shoshones to lend a few brood fish on condition that offspring be returned, the Wildlife Service caught 50 trout, which they packed in ice, laboriously backpacked to a clearing and ferried out by helicopter.

When the tiny fry finally did hatch out, they were so wild they were spooked by the slightest shadow of a human, and they gave standard U.S. Government Issue fry food the old fisheye. To give the little trout privacy, Saratoga men rigged water sprays to interfere with the trout's vision of passing humans. But the goldens simply did not know what to do with the dry prepared food that less wild trout eat with relish. Fortunately, the hatchery men found another solution: they added a few greedy little brook trout to the troughs to set an example. Quite unlike goldens, brookies are omnivorous chowhounds and discriminating breeders. It worked.

"You know how kids are," says Hatcheries Director Robert Stephens. "When one kid eats something, they all want it."


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