Computer History, and Mechanical Engineering

computer history before electronics, an electro mechanical tote


To find out more about the electro mechanical system above.

Computer History, the Automatic Totalisator

This is an introductory page to several, non-commercial pages on antiquated totes. Although these pages specifically relate to the invention of the world's first automatic totalisator in 1913 and its subsequent development, they are an example of "mechanical computing". There are many analogies which make these early totalisators appeal to computer history enthusiasts. The metrics used such as sales per minute and number of terminals. These systems also had distributed points of sale and a central processing facility connected in a fashion that is reminiscent of data networks. There were input devices, the ticket issuing machines and output devices, total counters and odds indicators. An electro mechanical device called a scanner seems to me to be the mechanical counterpart of a serial line multiplexer. There was a mechanical device for adjusting the amount of commission deducted from the pool. Additionally there is information on some old electronic totalisator systems. It would appear that this belongs in the realm of computer history!

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The largest of these mechanical / electro mechanical installations that I am aware of was in Longchamps France in 1928 with 273 terminals. Have a look at the chronology of the early installations.

To read about the way these mechanical and electro mechanical systems differed from adding machines of the time see extracts of a paper presented by George Julius to the Institution of Engineers Australia in 1920. These were multi user systems.

An electro mechanical system was built and tested in Sydney Australia capable of 250,000 sales per minute from 900 terminals. George Julius referred to this system in his address to the Institution of Engineers Australia.

See a newspaper reporter's description of an electro mechanical totalisator installation in Miami in 1932.

The company that manufactured these mechanical and electro mechanical systems also developed the world's first electronic totalisator system, which was installed in New York.

There is also some information on other electronic totalisator installations. The Brisbane system was a duplex Digital Equipment Corporation PDP11 based totalisator installed in Brisbane Australia in 1978.

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Go to a little known piece of computer history

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