totalisator history left image totalizator history centre image totalisator history right image

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An Australian Achievement

"We need to be aware of our engineering heroes ..." - Professor Trevor Cole - Sydney University
"One can hardly believe that such a man could go almost unnoticed and unrecognised" Professor Martyn Webb UWA

Image of an electro mechanical shaft adder circa 1926 See The shaft adder in the image chapter

Totalisator and Computer History A World's First

This website relates to the history of the automatic totalizator, its invention in 1913, the inventor George Julius and the Australian company he founded in 1917 Automatic Totaliastors Limited. This company became a world monopoly in this field and later became part of an oligopoly. It also relates information about George Julius' engineering consulting company Julius Poole and Gibson. George Julius has a wider significance in Australia where he is regarded as a nation builder. He was knighted for his contribution to Australian technology. There is a school of thought that these early Australian totalisators were the world's first computers.

Doron Swade writes in his New Scientist magazine article dated 29 October 1987 titled A sure bet for understanding computers with reference to the London Science Museum: The Julius totalisator with its automatic odds machine is the earliest on-line, real-time, data processing and computation system that the curators at the Science Museum have identified so far. The system is an extraordinary achievement both in terms of engineering design and information processing.



Index
Firstly
handimageIntroduction handimageAutomatic Totalisators Limited - later ATL
handimageSir George Julius handimageInstallations / Testimonials - The Premier Totalisator
handimageThe shaft adder in the image handimageThe Premier Tote Operation 1930 + Neville's talk
handimageMechanical Aids to Calculation handimageThe Julius Premier Totemobile
Secondly
handimageIntroduction to secondly handimageTote Topics
handimageMemories of the factory handimageMemories of the factory continued
handimageAutomatic Totalisators in America handimageATL The Brisbane Project
handimageMemories of a system long gone (computer)
Thirdly
handimageThe first factory Alice St Newtown handimageThe penultimate Factory WW2 and The Toolroom
handimageThe Melbourne Cup handimageVideo clips of a working Julius tote
handimageCaracas, a latterday Julius tote installation handimageThe end of an era - Harringay
Finally
handimageNew era the Electronic Totes handimageKota Kinabalu a computer tote installation
handimageIntro to long obsolete 1970s J22 tote TIM handimageComputer Tote Maintenance (technical)
handimagePool definitions + Report to Employees handimagePhoto Gallery + Synchronicity
handimagePhoto Gallery continued
Posthumously
handimageEagle Farm Racecourse Museum handimageMemoires of an Ops Manager and Harold Park
handimageBygone World's Largest Totes handimageGeorge Julius Genealogy and other latterday interest
handimage3 more ATL systems in Asia / Links to other pages
Supercentury installations
handimageThe First Automatic Totalisator-Ellerslie handimageThe Second Automatic Totalisator-Gloucester Park
handimageThe Third Automatic Totalisator-Eagle Farm handimageThe Fourth Automatic Totalisator-Randwick


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Copyright © 1997 - 2017
See the Accolades
An appeal for more information
A note about this web site
A part of the precept for this site was that it cost nothing. No web creation or html editing tools were used except for a short trial of early freeware html editing tools to see what was being missed. The html has been manually written using a text editor or simple word processor. I have made no attempt to change the look of this site to make it conform with the 21st century. It is deliberately left looking like a mid 1990s web site when the WWW was just blossoming in a sea of anonymous FTP servers. I think it is appropriate that it represents the past as this is after all a history site. One concession I have made to modernity is less restrictive use of images as well as increasing their resolution. Let us not forget that when this website was first established the Internet Service Provider disk quota for a website was 5 Megabytes. At the time of writing this sentence, December 2013, ISP disk quota is 1 Gigabyte. The other factor limiting number of images and keeping resolutions low was the bit rate of the link with the ISP. My first Internet connection was with a V.32 9600 BPS modem. Comparing this with ADSL2+ we have gone from 9.6 KBPS in the mid 1990s to in excess of 20,000 KBPS in 2013.
First released 25 March 1997
In this transient cyberspace, this web site has been at this same address for over 18 years


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Introduction

This Web Site will have particular appeal to two groups of people.

Firstly, those who have an interest in history and in particular that of technology. Anyone who knows something about the history of computing knows of Charles Babbage. What is little known is that mechanical engineering gave the world a highly successful machine used around the world that could be thought of as mechanical or later electro-mechanical computing in the form of the totalisator. These were probably the world's first large scale real time multi user systems. One was tested in Sydney in 1920 capable of supporting 1000 terminals and a sell rate of 250,000 transactions per minute, good by standards 9 decades later! These were not a theoretical machine or science fiction in a magazine, they were manufactured, operated and developed over decades. Generally they had much longer lifespans than the computing systems of today. The system installed in Longchamps France in 1928 with 273 terminals operated for 45 years before being replaced by a computer system. The system installed in Caracas Venezuela was still operating in its 48th year. Working on the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words I suggest that readers in this category have a look at the Photo Gallery + Synchronicity and the Photo Gallery continued chapters by following the links in the index provided above. Although they were real systems they are visually impressive behemoths that looked like they originated from an imaginative science fiction magazine. If this generates an interest there is plenty of relevant historical content in this site to wade through. For those interested in the history of digital computers prior to the advent of the Microprocessor, there is a chapter relating to component level maintenance of PDP11 based totalisators which can be viewed by following the link Computer Tote Maintenance (technical) in the index above.

Secondly, those who have an interest in the horse racing, trotting and dog racing industries and the totalisators that they are so linked with. I find it curious that, for a nation that stops for a horse race, The Melbourne Cup, and for a nation where most of the citizens know what a TAB is, that Australians know so little of the rich history of the automatic totalisator . Sir George Julius, the founder of the Australian companies Julius Poole & Gibson Pty Ltd and Automatic Totalisators Ltd, invented the world's first automatic totalisator , which was installed at Ellerslie Racecourse in New Zealand in 1913. Automatic Totalisators grew to be a monopoly exporting totalisator systems throughout the world and was sold to another once great and large Australian technology company AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia) in 1991. After the monopoly years it became part of an oligopoly. Finally with the advent of the digital computer, totalisators became just another application of computing and the business became openly competitive.

I worked on Automatic Totalisators' first sell pay computer totalizator system. The predecessors were all sell only including the computer totes. This computer based system was installed in Brisbane and superseded electromechanical totalizators which were descendants of the original invention. I was impressed by the craftsmanship and the ingenuity of these old systems, parts of which dated back to circa 1926. I saw one of these totalizator systems bulldozed and realised that this history could easily be lost. Along with peers I started to save shaft adders from the oldest totalizator which was at Ipswich. The shaft adders are analogous to part of the central processing unit in modern day terminology.

I found considerable interest in these shaft adders by Museums and Educational Institutions resulting in many donations. Professor Trevor Cole from Sydney University, accepting a shaft adder donation prior to the advent of the Internet, remarked that he had seen a model of Babbage's analytical engine and that the shaft adder reminded him of it. This consolidated my impression that these electro mechanical totalisator systems represented a technology that led to the invention of the computer. It is debatable whether these early electromechanical totalisators should be considered computers, due to technicalities such as the category of mechanical computing never having been established, however it is highly probable that they were the first large scale, real time, multi user systems, which are concepts that had to wait for the advent of the digital computer to become commonplace jargon. I noticed in a text relating to the Ellerslie Julius tote by Prof Bob Doran, that George Julius himself referred to a shaft adder as a computer. This of course predated our contemporary view of a computer which went through a transformation with the advent of the digital computer. Interestingly I heard a radio discussion where one of the participants indicated there was a time when some people were regarded as computers and you could get a job as a computer.

This page is a continued attempt to keep this history from fading away! I am unable to offer more eloquent words to express the motivation behind attempting to retain some of this history than those of Frank Matthews in the Preface to the book From Tote to Cad published by Julius Pool and Gibson:

"This book was written because memories grow dim and records tend to disappear. As Julius Poole & Gibson is the longest established Australian consulting engineering practice there seemed to be a duty to produce a historical record before it was too late."

I have included information on the Brisbane Project as one of the Company's later achievements. By 1978 the Company was struggling with applying its monopoly oriented culture to the new world of competition. The Brisbane Project existed in the shadow of a much larger project, Sha Tin in Hong Kong. When this failed, due to inability to deliver on time, the company's future depended on the Brisbane Project's success. Our brief became simple, "Brisbane must work". I consider myself privileged to have worked with the small group of selfless devotees who moulded another potential failure into success.

Image inside one of the Brisbane tote mobiles Inside one of the Brisbane tote mobiles

Having mentioned the failure of the Sha Tin project, I will add that at the time of the failure, an Automatic Totalisators' computer tote system had been working at the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club's Happy Valley track for a decade. This system was PDP8 based and supported 550 individual selling points.

image of horsesGo back to the index
image of horsesGo to the next page

I recall my first experience with the "Nation stopping for a horse race" mentioned above. I came to Sydney in 1964 from Hong Kong to attend boarding school. School life was structured and disciplined and education was a serious matter. It was with some suspicion of being the object of a practical joke, that I listened to the other students telling me that in the afternoon the teacher would stop and we would be allowed to listen to the radio broadcast of the Melbourne cup. I was introduced to the concept of a sweep, which further contributed to my suspicions that this was a joke.

I was later informed that I had been allotted Polo Prince and that this had been the last horse drawn from the hat and that it had next to no chance of winning. At this point I felt disadvantaged by not being fully initiated in these Australian customs.

I was astonished when I found that what I had been told was correct. I started to listen to my first horse race and the next thing I knew "They were off". A person was talking in a quick constant manner. As the race continued, the pace increased along with the excitement level. The words "Polo Prince" appeared more and more and I thought that this is probably good. The excitement built to a crescendo, then the broadcast returned to normal.

It was later confirmed, Polo Prince had won.

Mark Twain was also impressed by this phenomenon having made the following comment after seeing the Melbourne Cup in 1895. Nowhere in the world have I encountered a festival of people that has such a magnificent appeal to the whole nation. The Cup astonishes me.

The first year that an Automatic Totalisators system operated at Flemington on the Melbourne Cup was 1931. Totalisator betting was illegal in Victoria prior to 1931.

Brian Conlon

Latest updates

January 2016 - Addition of two images titled Caracas control room Ticket Counter console and An Image of staff showing J8s to the Caracas, a latterday Julius tote installation chapter, with associated text.
January 2016 - Addition of a postscript regarding Sir Henry Parkes, to the Memories of the factory chapter, in the second paragraph below the image of the factory.
January 2016 - Addition of ticket images and associated text for Wembley, White City, Harold's Cross, Sherbourne Park and Cork from Chris Robertson, to the Tote Topics chapter and the fourth page of the Bygone World's Largest Totes chapter.
January 2016 - Addition of an image of my first boss at ATL Ron Hood training two Iraqi engineers in the installation department at Meadowbank, along with associated information from Neville Mitchell, to the Memories of the factory continued chapter.
January 2016 - Addition of a comment by Greg Davis, to the Memories of the factory below the image of the foyer regarding the pending demolition of the ex ATL Meadowbank factory.
January 2016 - Addition of an extract from Racetrack magazine, to the second page of the Bygone World's Largest Totes chapter as well as the first image file of the Ellerslie Racecourse New Zealand 1913 section of the Photo Gallery + Synchronicity chapter.
February 2016 - Addition of examples of totalisator tickets from ATL systems, purchased by Chris Robertson in his travels around the planet, in varied pages as follows: The third page in the Bygone World's Largest Totes Chapter titled The World's Biggest Tote 1933 White City Stadium London plus the Tote Topics chapter under the heading Some Listed Installations, plus to the second and third and fourth pages of the Memories of an Ops Manager and Harold Park chapter, plus some images in the photo gallery as follows: In two image pages under the heading Queensland Racecourses with starting text The Doomben Main Tote House and The Albion Park Main Tote House and another under the heading Morphettville, South Australian Jockey Club 1921 with starting text This is an image of the main tote house and another under the heading Harold Park Harness racing Track with starting text An unusual image of Harold Park. Additionally, Chris' tickets added to the Tote Topics chapter as follows: tickets from Mariendorf Berlin under the heading Bahrenfeld Germany - Quarterly Magazine July 1979 tickets from South Africa under the heading The Durban Turf Club - Tote Topics Winter 1978 under the sub heading The Winter Season, and tickets from Singapore under the heading More of the Singapore Tuf Club (Extracts from Tote Topics Winter 1978) and Tickets from Seoul under the heading Some Listed Installations and sub heading Argentina. Additionally tickets from Belmont in the Automatic Totalisators in America chapter under the heading ATL international name in totalizator betting systems and sub heading Saratoga and Belmont Park. Addition of the Hong Kong ticket to the Tote Topics chapter under the heading happy with ATL at Happy Valley.
February 2016 - Addition of information on the Ipoh and Penang projects including an image of Ron Hood, as well as images of the Ipoh and Penang totes from Lachie Macdonald and tote tickets from Chris Robertson as well as extracts from Tote Topics magazine regarding The Perak Tuff Club and The Penang Tuf Club as well as an image of a large Penang tote house with J8 tickets machines as well as Peter Rolls' eulogy to the 3 more ATL systems in Asia/Links to other pages chapter.
February 2016 - Addition of a Royal Turf Club of Thailand tote ticket from Chris Robertson to the Tote Topics chapter near the bottom of the page under the heading The Royal Tuf Club of Thailand.
February 2016 - Addition of a section titled Baghdad - Al Furusua Club - Al Mansur to the Memories of the factory continued chapter from Rex Turner.
March 2016 - Addition of a paragraph containing an anecdote from Dermot Elworthy, George Julius' great nephew, regarding a prank at Canterbury College, where George Julius was a student, to the George Julius Genealogy and other latterday interest chapter, in the second paragraph below the image of Canterbury College, under the heading New Zealand Holiday 2007.
March 2016 - Addition of ticket images and ATL Lamp Indicator brochure with associated text, from Chris Robertson, to the Melbourne Cup chapter.
March 2016 - Addition of Keith Dodwell's full Obituary written by Mari Dodwell, after she provided approval for it to be presented on this website, to the Caracas, a latterday Julius tote installation chapter.
March 2016 - Addition of J8 and J11 ATL brochures provided by Chris Robertson, to the Photo Gallery Continued chapter.
April 2016 - Addition of five ATL brochures provided by Chris Robertson, to the Photo Gallery+Synchronicity chapter under the heading in the table Images of ATL company brochures donated by Chris Robertson.
April 2016 - Addition of extracts from a document sent to me by Mike Bell titled The PREMIER (JULIUS) AUTOMATIC TOTALISATOR, to images in the Photo Gallery + Synchronicity chapter, with the associated texts starting The Tote House at the Ellerslie Racecourse... and Western Australian Trotting Association's Tote Building... and Longchamps Racecourse France circa 1929... and Ceylon Turf Club Colombo... and A close up view of the Longchamps pavilion. and The type of Julius Tote Ticket Issuing Machine used at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. and An image of one of the 273 J5 Ticket Issuing Machines at Longchamps and This image shows an early large system adder and The world's first Odds Computer... Finally there is one more extract in the second page of the photo gallery chapter titled Photo Gallery Continued, under the heading Ticket Issuing Machines (TIMs) with the associated text starting The type of TIM in use at Randwick Racecourse in 1927.
April 2016 - Addition of Norm Noble's farewell Turnstile to the Memories of the Factory chapter under the heading Memories of Norm Noble unrelated to turnstiles near the bottom of the page.
April 2016 - Addition of a curious static chain to the Memories of the factory continued chapter under the heading Factory Memories from Rod Richards near the bottom of the page.
May 2016 - Made every Webpage in this Website, 119 of them, all Search Engine friendly as well as Mobile friendly.
May 2016 - Addition of a Trove newspaper article relating to Sir George Julius titled How the Automatic Totalisator was invented to the Mechanical Aids to Calculation chapter.
May 2016 - Addition of extracts from the above Trove newspaper article to Photo Gallery image files in the Photo Gallery+Synchronicity chapter in the Miscellaneous Images section with starting text This is a page extracted from a company document... and also in the Photo Gallery continued chapter in the Early Factory Images section with starting text An early workshop photograph..., another further down the page with starting text An Automatic Totalisators machine shop... Then in the Ticket Issuing Machines (TIMs) section, with starting text The inside of a J1 ticket issuing machine... and below that The outside of a J1 ticket issuing machine... Finally I have included a comment from Sir George in this article where he states he knew Lord Rutherford in the George Julius Genealogy and other latterday interest chapter, under the heading New Zealand Holiday 2007.
October 2016 - Addition of section titled Germany and Britain Holiday 2016 to the George Julius Genealogy and other latterday interest chapter.
October 2016 - Addition of section titled A visit to Germany and Hungary to the 3 more ATL systems in Asia/Links to other pages chapter.
October 2016 - Addition of section titled Mariendorf Trabrennbahn Germany - Autotote System to the Tote Topics chapter.
October 2016 - Addition of section titled Bob Rowe's email to The end of an era - Harringay chapter.
December 2016 - Addition of extracts from a Referee newspaper article titled THE TOTALISATOR WHICH ENSURES INSTANTANEOUS REGISTRATION to the first, third and fourth image pages selectable in the Photo Gallery + synchronicity chapter.
December 2016 - Addition of extracts from an article in The West Australian newspaper in 1915 titled THE TOTALISATOR with subtitle Most Modern Machine in Australia, to the two J1 image pages accessible via the Photo Gallery + synchronicity chapter by selecting the first and second image thumbnails in the Ticket Issuing Machines (TIM) section. An image of a J1 with its covers on and access doors shut has been added to the first of these image pages.
December 2016 - Addition of section titled Victoria Park Racecourse to the George Julius Genealogy and other latterday interest chapter.
January 2017 - Creation of a new chapter titled New era the Electronic Totes and the addition of two new images from Bob Plemel, of the Happy Valley PDP8 system as well as the Happy Valley TCC (Tote Control Console), both in the Meadowbank factory. It also has three articles from Tote Topics magazines relating to the Electronic Totalisators.
January 2017 - Addition of a Tote Topics article regarding the Toolmaking Division to the Memories of the penultimate Factory during WWII chapter, as well as a 1945 newspaper advertisement for this Division and an extract from a company document titled Automatic Totalisators Limited Toolroom.
January 2017 - Addition of a comment from Rod Richards, ex ATL engineer, about driving an ATL Totemobile from Sydney to Adelaide and Australian Driving Licences in 1950 to the Julius Premier Totemobile chapter.
January 2017 - Addition of comments by Rex Turner, ex ATL project engineer, to the Tote Topics chapter, under the headings Philippines (Extract from ATL booklet The Computer Tote 1974) and Turffontein - Extracts from Tote Topics Autumn 1978.
February 2017 - Addition of information on Frederick Augustus Wilkinson, who developed an electromechanical TIM with George Julius and worked for ATL for 30 years, to the chapter titled The Earliest Automatic Totalisators Factory Staff Photo about the Alice Street Newtown factory which follows the chapter on the Chalmers street factory titled The penultimate Factory WW2 and The Toolroom.
February 2017 - Addition of a comment by Dermot Elworthy about the ATL Toolmaking Division to the The penultimate Factory WW2 and The Toolroom chapter.
February 2017 - Addition of a comment from Rod Richards regarding the Randall Park project to The Earliest Automatic Totalisators Factory Staff Photo as Randall Park is mentioned in one of the newspaper articles on this page. This file follows the chapter on the Chalmers street factory titled The penultimate Factory WW2 and The Toolroom.
February 2017 - Addition of a an anecdote regarding Pat and Dale Oxtoby and Narelle and Brian Conlon who attended the Brisbane Project 20 year reunion, reminiscing about the reunion unaware at the time that it was 20 years after the reunion, to ATL the Brisbane Project chapter.
March 2017 - Addition of a 1946 Trove newspaper article from the Western Mail newspaper titled IDEA THAT PAID DIVIDENDS to the image page in the photo gallery accessible from the Photo Gallery+Synchronicity chapter, by selecting the thumbnail under the heading Gloucester Park Trotting Track Western Australia.
March 2017 - Addition of a second comment by Chris Robertson about the NYRA project to the Automatic Totalisators in America chapter.
March 2017 - Addition of a comment by Kevin Shaw from the Ryde Historical Society regarding the demolition of the ATL Meadowbank factory to the Sir George Julius chapter and The punultimate Factory WW2 and The Toolroom chapter.
March 2017 - Addition of an email from Ian Waugh, an ex ATL engineer in New Zealand, relating to the Setright TIM in the Photo Gallery+Synchronicity chapter accessed by selecting the 5th image thumbnail in the directory with associated text starting The Ellerslie 1913 Julius tote system wiring...
April 2017 - Addition of information on the Randwick 1917 Julius tote after discovering that the Randwick system was the first of the electromechanical systems. Additionally I discovered that the Randwick system did not have distributors although they were developed shortly after. I have also discovered that the ornate large adder in the Photo Gallery does not belong to the Randwick system but was a demonstration adder used for George's 1920 white paper presentation and demonstration to the Institution of Engineers Australia and that this worked with scanners. The modified pages are the three pages of the Photo Gallery in the Photo Gallery+Synchronicity chapter under the heading Julius Tote equipment used at a Sydney Racetrack.
April 2017 - Addition of information on, and improvements to, descriptions of the Julius Tote Storage Screws. The pages modified are in the Photo Gallery. Firstly the ones accessible from the Photo Gallery+synchronicity chapter, are the image in the Longchamps Paris 1928 section, which has the associated text starting One of the many electromechanical shaft adders at Longchamps and two images in the Western India Turf Club Bombay section which has the associated text starting The Western India Turf Club Julius Runner Adder and display unit back view and the following image with associated text starting The Western India Turf Club Julius Runner Adder and display unit front view. The other modified image pages are in the Photo Gallery Continued chapter, under the heading Brough Park Newcastle Upon Tyne with the associated text starting with One of the many adders in the central processing system, to be installed at Brough Park and another under the heading Figures from George Julius' paper presented to the Institution of Engineers Australia with the starting text The images in this section are for the technically minded.
April 2017 - Addition of an image of the shaft adder used in the 1920 white paper presentation and demonstration of a totalisator system to the Institution of Engineers Australia in the Mechanical Aids to Calculation chapter, as well as addition of additional information from George's paper resulting in the conglomeration of three extracts from the paper into one bigger one.
April 2017 - Addition of an article titled Latest tote equipment could revolutionise course betting from Turf Monthly magazine to the New era the Electronic Totes chapter.
May 2017 - Addition of a new page relating to the 1917 Randwick Julius Totalisator. It is the first page in the Bygone World's Largest Totes chapter.
May-June 2017 - Addition of multiple comments from Frank Matthews who was the last senior partner of George Julius' engineering consulting company Julius Poole & Gibson. These comments have been added to the Photo Gallery + Synchronicity chapter, the Sir George Julius chapter and The Shaft Adder in the Image chapter.
June 2017 - Addition of a section from the book Julius Poole & Gibson The First Eighty Years to The Shaft Adder in the Image chapter relating to Roger Gibson, as a result of one of Frank Matthews comments in the previous entry.
August 2017 - Addition of information to the two Singapore pages in the Photo Gallery + Synchronicity chapter.
September 2017 - Rearranged chapters to include two new sections called Thirdly which needs no explanation and Supercentury which includes chapters on the Julius totalisators that have had a century elapse since they commenced operation. The pages in the new Supercentury chapter used to be solely in the photo gallery. They include the first automatic Totalisator at Ellerslie, the second at Gloucespter Park, the third at Eagle Farm and the fourth at Randwick. All these pages have received significant additional information since they were only in the Photo Gallery chapters, except Eagle Farm which I have yet to upgrade.


Acknowledgements
Information has been extracted from Automatic Totalisators company magazines and documents.
Thanks to Max Anderson, Frank Matthews and Max Sherrard, for allowing me to quote from the book From Tote to Cad published by Julius Poole & Gibson.
Thanks to Peter Collier for bringing the New Scientist article mentioned above to my attention.
Thanks to Crames Studios--3D Animations and Graphics for the Australian flag
Thanks to my 11 year old son (1997) who was a great help with the typing, the html and the images.


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