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

Public View of the World's First Automatic Totalisator

This image shows the front of the tote building housing the world's first automatic totalisator. This photo was taken in 1916, 3 years after this first automatic totalisator commenced operation. The writing on the cardboard mounting of this photograph reads PW015 Auckland Racing Club, New Zealand Paddock Enclosure - Leger Selling Houses and Indicators 1916

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This photograph is over a century old and was 100 years old in 2016--home to a real time multi user computing system over a century ago!


There is no Photographers details visible on this photograph. I have two copies of it and they are both glued to a cardboard backing so it is not possible to see if there is anything written there. If you know who owns the copyright for this photo please let me know and I will give credit to them. To contact me, click on the image to go back to the photo gallery and use the email contact address at the bottom of that page.

As this is the external, customer view of the world's first automatic totalisator, it seems appropriate to present some information about the events that led to this invention. Following are some extracts from a company document titled THE PREMIER (JULIUS) AUTOMATIC TOTALISATOR published in 1930. Thanks to Mike Bell, an ex ATL (Automatic Totalisators Limited) Project Manager and Programmer for having sent me an electronic version of this document.

The company document mentioned has a low resolution copy of this image. It is labelled Fig. 2, first "Premier" Totalisator installed on the Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, N.Z., in 1913. Extracts from this document follow:

The principal of betting by means either of the Totalisator or the "Pari Mutuel" is that all money staked by backers is pooled, and when the result of the race is known, the amount (less some prearranged percentage deduction), is shared by those who have backed the winner. The earliest systematised process for effecting this arrangement was invented in 1872 by M.(sic) Oller in France, where it became known as the Pari Mutuel. The apparatus was simple and consisted of blocks of consecutively numbered tickets or vouchers, the tickets in each block bearing the race-card number of each horse running. These tickets were sold over a counter in various small buildings, and sales were stopped when the race started. Calculations from the number of tickets sold on each horse gave the resultant dividend, which was then paid out on presentation of winning tickets.

In theory, the Pari Mutuel sounds excellent; in practice it has many and serious defects. The public are, in general unable to form any idea as to the state of the betting, nor therefore of the dividend they may hope to receive, although on certain Continental racecourses efforts are made, by the selling of slips during the progress of the betting, to inform bettors of the approximate extent to which various competitors in the race have been backed. Obviously such information can only be approximate and is often quite inaccurate, and after the betting is closed an army of clerks is required to make the calculations necessary to determine the amount of the dividend, and these calculations on a big race, frequently delay the payment of the dividend to such an extent that the money invested on one race is not available for reinvestment on the race immediately following.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1880, the first application of mechanism to the Pari Mutuel system of betting was introduced, when a totalisator invented by Mr. Ekborg was brought into use. Improvements on this machine followed rapidly, and several more elaborate machines were subsequently used on racecourses in New Zealand and Australia. Most of these were of the manual type. In such equipment, information as to the progress of the sales of tickets on various horses, was conveyed per telephone, or otherwise, to operators stationed in the totalisator machine room, and these operators then moved certain indicators by hand, to record and display the information so obtained.

Obviously, with such a system, the information displayed to the public was much behind (in time) the actual progress of the betting, and it was not at all unusual for the numbers on the totalisator to be still moving, i.e., to be still recording tickets sold, after the finish of the race on which the bets had been made, and consequently after the winner was known, and it was apparent that manually controlled equipment was open to very grave fraud. To eliminate this risk, various authorities instituted regulations under which those in control of racing were prohibited from actually starting any race until the wheels of the totalisator had completed the record of sales of tickets upon the horses competing in that race.

In order to comply with these regulations, the totalisator was closed some minutes before the advertised starting time of the race, thus causing considerable annoyance to the public, and appreciable loss of revenue to the Race Club. Moreover, despite this early closing down on the betting, it still was frequently found necessary also to delay the start of the race, because records on the machine were not complete at the advertised starting time. As a result, when betting on a particular race had been unexpectedly heavy, it was not uncommon to see the horses delayed at the post for ten minutes and longer. Naturally this was very disturbing alike to owners, Jockeys and bettors, while the effect upon the chances of a high-spirited horse can be imagined.

To overcome these several disadvantages, attempts were made to perfect a machine which would automatically and instantaneously record and display the numbers of tickets sold on each horse, and also the aggregate number of tickets sold right throughout the progress of the betting. In 1912, Mr. (now Sir George) Julius invented a machine which fulfilled all these requirements, and the Premier Totalisator, as he named his invention, was first installed on the Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, New Zealand, in 1913. Since that date this machine has been installed on most of the leading racecourses in Australia, New Zealand, and in the East, and notably also at Longchamps, Paris where the largest totalisator in the world has been in successful use for the past two years.

The text in this company document, that immediately follows the above text can be read in the Gloucester Park image page, which can be accessed by clicking on the image above then scrolling down the image directory to the heading Gloucester Park Trotting Track Western Australia and selecting the associated image thumbnail.

Additionally there are images of and information on Longchamps mentioned above which can be accessed by clicking on the image above then scrolling down the image directory to the heading starting with Longchamps Paris 1928 - and selecting the image thumbnails in this section.