This technology history page contains a photograph which is one of several belonging to the photo gallery pages which are part of several pages relating to the invention of the world's first automatic totalizator in 1913 and Automatic Totalisators Limited, the Australian company founded in 1917 to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

The world's first Odds Computer

This is an image of the world's first Odds Computer, invented in 1927 by Automatic Totlisators Limited.


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Following is an extract from a company document written in 1930, titled The PREMIER (JULIUS) AUTOMATIC TOTALISATOR, which is the tenth extract, immediately following the extract in the image page which appears in the photo gallery under the heading Julius Tote equipment used at a Sydney Racetrack, with associated text starting This image shows an early large system adder... This document text drifts from the shaft adders to the Indicators and this extract starts at the point where it moves onto the indicators. The first sentence overlaps with the previous extract as this is where the transition from the Adders to the Indicators starts:

Adding Machines (continued)

As previously described, Premier equipment is now available, and is, in fact, in use by means of which the result of the betting can be displayed to the public in terms of the "expected dividend" or "odds" on the horse, in place of the more usual and older method of recording only the "number" of tickets sold. The equipment used for this purpose is of simple type, and accurately and instantaneously makes the necessary percentage deduction from the grand total pool, whether it be on a "win" or a "place" machine, and at the same time calculates the amount of the dividend that would be paid to the "winning" or "placed" horses, as the case may be, at that instant in the betting.

Figs. 21 and 22 show the front and side views of a typical "Premier" Odds Indicator Equipment. The mechanism shown records for each of two horses the total number of tickets sold on each horse by the inner hand on each of the two inner dials, and the "expected Dividend" or "Odds" for each of the two horses by the outer hand on the outer dials and the total number of tickets sold on all the horses in the race by the upper dial and hand.

There are some differences between figures 21 and 22 in the company document and the image above. Firstly the image above gives an edge on view which provides a combined view of both the front and side as provided by Figs. 21 and 22. Secondly, instead of providing records for each of two horses, the demonstration calculator in this image provides for four horses. Thirdly, the odds indicators in this image only have one hand and do not have the inner hand and consequently do not provide the total number of tickets sold on each horse, only the odds. Finally the number of tickets sold on all the horses dial and hand, instead of being on the top is on the bottom.

The calculations involved in determining the expected dividend in the case of the "Paddock" Machine at Randwick, New South Wales, will provide a very good example of the functions that this "odds" calculating apparatus could perform, were such equipment installed on that course.

The machine in question was installed for "place" betting and the "pool" is divided in the ratio of 60 per cent. for the backers of the winning horse, and 20 per cent. each for the backers of the second and third horses. Before the pool is divided however, a deduction of 12½ per cent. has to be made from the grand total of the investments, this 12½ per cent. representing the fixed deduction made by the Government on all moneys passing through the totalisator. An investor, therefore, to determine the dividend that he may expect on any particular horse, has first to deduct 12½ per cent. from the grand total, as displayed on the indicator. He then has to divide up the remaining amount in the ratio of 60 per cent., 20 per cent., and 20 per cent. and finally has to divide these reduced amounts by the "number" representing the investments on the particular horse in which he is interested, so that he may discover the dividend that he would receive, should his horse run first, second or third. Whilst he is making these calculations, the totalisator indicators are all moving rapidly, and usually an approximate result only can be obtained. THE PREMIER ODDS INDICATOR DOES THE WHOLE OF THESE OPERATIONS AUTOMATICALLY and INSTANTANEOUSLY, AND DISPLAYS TO THE PUBLIC THE DIVIDEND THAT MAY BE EXPECTED ON EACH HORSE, WHETHER IT BE ON A WIN MACHINE OR A PLACE MACHINE.

Indicators

Various methods have been adopted with Premier equipment for displaying to the public the results of the calculations made by the machine, and these methods are shown on pages 16 and 17 herein. As previously mentioned such indicators may be located in close association with the main totalisator machine, or on any other point on the racecourse, and in the earlier equipments each subsidiary indicator required for its operation at least one trained operator, whose duty it was to look after the equipment, and to reset the various records to zero, at the end of the betting on each race. IN THE LATEST TYPE OF PREMIER EQUIPMENT, ALL INDICATORS ARE FULLY AUTOMATIC, AND REQUIRE NO OPERATOR IN ATTENDANCE. They accurately record from instant to instant the results of the calculations made by the adding machines and express such results either in terms of "numbers" of tickets sold, or as "expected dividends" or "odds," and at the end of the betting on each race the subsidiary indicators are automatically set back to zero by the setting back of the main machine. The simplicity and compactness of these new indicators, and the elimination of any need for operators, makes it possible to install such equipment in any relatively restricted space, such, for instance, as close up to the back or end of the grandstand, or on the face of any other existing buildings.

I have lived through the large scale introduction of digital computers into the workplace and seen them render staff redundant. From the above, it is evident that technology did not have to wait for the first electronic computers to render staff redundant!

The use of these "full automatic" subsidiary indicators has also greatly reduced the amount of electric energy required for the operation of the equipment--a factor of very great importance in large totalisator installations.

And as time went on, efficiency in general became more and more of a concern!

One of the greatest advantages of the latest form of Premier equipment is its flexibility, which permits of its installation in such a way as will meet the requirements of any course, whether large or small. Selling booths may be located just as the needs of the course may require. Indicators may be located wherever there may be a group of selling booths, and even, also, in the middle of the Racecourse, so that the progress of the betting may be visible to every person in the various stands around the Course.

On smaller Courses, buildings may be provided suitable for the housing of Premier equipment, and the whole machine constructed so that within 24 hours it can readily be transferred from such a building on one Racecourse to a similar building on another, making allowance, of course, for the distance between the two courses. This arrangement makes it possible for a group of small country Clubs to purchase one equipment to serve all their race meetings, provided such meetings do not fall upon the same day. To meet even smaller requirements, a portable equipment, mounted on a suitable motor lorry, can be supplied. Such equipment would contain its own electrical power plant, all its calculating machines, and its indicators, and could travel from course to course, as required.

Although I started with Automatic Totalisators Limited 77 years after the above was written, these principles were very much still in use. The PDP11 computer based totalisator systems that I worked on, that replaced the Julius Totalisators in the Brisbane region, were mobile and the transaction processors were installed in two semi-trailers that serviced five racetracks. Two separate systems were required due to the condition presented in the above text, that one system cannot be used as a solution if multiple meetings are conducted at the same time. The ticket issuing machines and other mobile equipment was transported separately to the central computers in the semis however.

An illustration of the erection of a subsidiary "barometer" type of Indicator on the back of a grandstand is shown in Fig. 23, and in Fig. 24 an illustration is given of a typical motor-truck type of portable machine, suitable for small country racecourses. In this latter equipment the selling booths can be permanently erected on each course, small, light wooden sheds only being required, and the ticket-issuing machines could be installed within a few minutes in these booths, and be transported at the end of the meeting to some other course.