This 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, the company founded to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

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The World's First Automatic Totalisator

The Ellerslie Mechanical Computer Room

This is an image of the world's first automatic totalizator at Ellerslie in 1913. Although this first automatic totalisator looked like a giant tangle of piano wires, pulleys and cast iron boxes and many racing officials predicted that it would not work, it was a great success. More after the image ...


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The photographer's stamp on this photo reads: FARNALL ART PHOTOGRAPHER 402-420 Victoria Arcade Auckland Phone 2974
This photograph is over a century old and was 100 years old in 2013--a real time multi user computing system over a century ago!



These early automatic totalizators were completely mechanical and consisted of Ticket Issuing Machines coupled to Drum Indicator Adder Units, all housed in the one building for one pool only. Miles of flexible wire cables connected the Ticket Issuing Machines to the Indicator/Adder Units. A considerable length of bicycle chain ran over sprockets and heavy cast iron weights were used for drive power.

Note the weights with runner numbers on them dangling from wires to the right of the staircase in the image above. These provided the motive force for the aggregating equipment. Below the platform level at the bottom of the staircase and to the right of the platform below the weights numbered 21 11 and 22, three selling stations are visible. Some of the operator controlled beer tap handles are visible on the two right hand stations. These handles register the bets and produce tickets.

Following is an extract from a 1974 article in Racetrack Magazine titled The Galloping Gourmets, which takes a look back at this system and provides a glimpse at following totalisator history:

One of the most important cogs in the wheel of racing is the Totalisator, the machine which is continually fed by punters but always remains famished. The public attempts to sate the monster's appetite by betting more and more each year, but the efforts are in vain.

Where did this "gobbling creation" come from, and what has been its effect on racing throughout the world?

It is difficult to imagine a time when totalisators were not used in racing and, as stated in a booklet produced by Automatic Totalisators Limited (ATL), it would be "like a car without wheels".

The wheels of the totalisator system began to roll more than 55 years ago when the brilliant Australian engineer George Julius created the world's first Automatic Totalisator System in the form of a strange and ungainly mechanical unit. This machine, a conglomeration of wheels and cogs, was set loose upon an unsuspecting racing public at Ellerslie Racecourse in new Zealand in 1913.

Automatic Totalisators Limited was founded in 1917 and specialised in the manufacturing and installation of these strange machines. The company's task was facilitated somewhat during its foundation year with the introduction of electricity, thus resulting in the Automatic Electro-mechanical Totalisator.

The seeds were sown. ATL's motto became "progression" and during the last 50 years it has endeavoured to discover new methods by which to cater for the betting demands of the public. Its machines were hungry, and the public was willing to feed them.

In 1920 seven Australian racecourses had introduced the Electro-mechanical system, and some of them are still operating at full capacity today. This fact can either be a tribute to the manufacturing company for creating such hardy machines, or indicative of how some race clubs have failed to retain the same level of progression as the company.

One of ATL's greatest triumphs was the introduction of the Totalisator to the picturesque French racecourse, Longchamps, in Paris. It was installed in 1928, a time in which the knowledge of mechanical calculating systems was very limited. Yet, not so short of 50 years of service, the Longchamps punters are still battling against those same machines in an effort to take away a dream from the racecourse.

Automatic Totalisators Limited has installed the same service on more than 200 racecourses in 30 countries throughout the world. There are some countries which Australian punters would not even consider conducted race meetings, and perhaps they would not have done so had they not been able to provide the public with a complete service.

These countries include the Philippines, India, Sweden, Ghana, Eire, Iraq, Spain, Brazil, Burma, Ceylon, France, Canada, Nigeria, Jamaica, Pakistan, England, Trinidad, Rhodesia, Malaysia, Columbia, Thailand, Scotland, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United States of America, South Africa and of course Australia.

The betting demands of all of these countries are catered for by ATL.

Totes before the first Automatic Totalisator

Before progressing forward with the history of the automatic totalisator, it is worth having a quick look at the state of totalisators prior to this invention. Below is an extract from an article that appeared in a Sydney newspaper the Referee in 1913 titled THE TOTALISATOR WHICH ENSURES INSTANTANEOUS REGISTRATION. It relates to the Ellerslie 1913 Julius Tote, which is the subject of this and other similar pages in the Ellerslie section of the Photo Gallery of this website.

The Citation: A TOTALISATOR THAT REGISTERS INSTANTNEOUSLY (1913, December 17). Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), p. 7. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120488565
The following extract, follows a description in the newspaper article of a manual tote operation:

All that is plain sailing--to tote officials and the public alike--but the bugbear to date has been the recording of sales. Under the old system it was customary to have one man doing nothing but tallying sales. Perhaps two of three might be employed in various sections. Each of these would work along the line of seller, taking notes of sales on one, two or three horses at a time, and call to the man or men manipulating the board, which shows on the outside the progress of individual and total investments. Obviously this was a most laborious way of recording the business of the machine, and it was quite patent to everybody that, with anything approaching extensive wagering, the tote could not hope to complete its recording prior to the start of a race. And such is human nature that where a machine was still running during the progress of a race (notwithstanding that every window closed simultaneously with the ringing of an electric bell, indicating the start), there were invariably comments on the honesty of "those fellows inside." On that score, however, little need be said. For even if those inside were no more honest than those outside, there was mighty little opportunity, in a properly-organised staff, for them to indulge in "dipping." For one thing, a tote clerk has to show a balance-sheet every day; and any deficiency he has to make good.

Another fault in some of the machines was that they registered only in tens till the close, when the units were adjusted where necessary. In some cases, however, even that was not done, and many a disappointed backer has looked for a dividend based on a division, say, between ten ticket-holders when the machine really recorded 19.

Of course, every one knows how common it was for a machine to be still registering when a race was over; but a great deal of the criticism levelled at the tote people would surely have never been uttered had the public the slightest conception of the terrible pace at which they are called upon to work to supply backers. Criticism of a machine was justifiable, for a tote should be able to close its doors and show its holding at any given moment; but no number of men, no matter how hard they worked, could have made that possible under old conditions.

The following extract from this article can be read in the second image file after this one in the Photo Gallery of this website. Click on the image above and select the image thumbnail following the one after this image thumbnail.


Fancy Line

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