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



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.

The above article "The Galloping Gourmets" by Graeme Clark is Courtesy of Racetrack Magazine