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.

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Drive Section World's First Automatic Tote and online realtime multiuser system

This image shows the top of the drive section of the Ellerslie tote mechanical computer which is the world's first automatic totalisator as well as the first realtime multiuser system. Ratchets that can be seen above the two horizontal support beams are attached to cogs from which the motivating weights are dangling via chains. These ratchets are the means for winding the weights up again when they get too low, as they descend when they lose their potential energy which is converted to kinetic energy to drive the totalisator, at a rate related to selling activity. The principle is the same as winding up the weights on mechanical Cuckoo Clocks, although by the look of the weights in the second image below, winding these weights up would be a far more athletic activity.
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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--part of a realtime multiuser computing system over a century ago!

The weights dangling from the chains, look like long concrete blocks with numbers on them, which can be seen dangling down the left hand side of the frame in the image below, which shows the machinery below that in the image above. The numbers on the weights identify the specific runner equipment for which it is providing the motive force. There are two horizontal banks of them in the image below, one that passes the mid section of the staircase and a lower bank behind the right hand bannister of the landing. The upper bank of weights in the image below correspond to the top row of ratchets in the image at the top of this page and the lower bank of weights in the image below correspond to the lower row of ratchets in the image at the top of this page. There seems to be two of these weights for every runner in a race and the weights provide the motive force for the runner associated equipment. Speculating, one weight may be dedicated to the aggregating equipment and the other to the counter associated with each runner. Postscript: I have just been reading Prof Bob Doran's excellent technical description of this system on the University of Auckland website under the heading "Totalisators: First Automatic Totalisator" and my speculation in the previous sentence is speculation no more, as his meticulous research confirms that one weight per runner drives the associated aggregating equipment or adder and the other drives the associated counter wheel display.

The grand total counter wheels can be seen on the right hand wall near the centre of the image above, looking under the central part of the bannister which looks brighter than the rest of the woodwork. This Grand Total counter can be seen from the outside, in the tote house image which precedes the one above in the Photo Gallery, underneath the roof apex of the central part of the building with the words GRAND TOTAL above. To view this image click on the image above and scroll up to the previous thumbnail and select that. Half way along the double horizontal supporting beams in the image above, there is a crank handle attached to a ratchet on the upper beam. This looks like it is part of the drive for the Grand Total counter. The handle is probably a portable handle and can be disengaged from the ratchet it is connected to and used to wind up any of the weights when they are getting low. It looks like there are three partly used cable drums of wire sitting under the grand total counter in the image above. Either the installation was not complete when this photo was taken or this is spare cable to be used to replace a cable if one breaks. As can be seen on the right hand side of the image below and other images of this installation, there was miles of flexible wire utilised.

A full sized version of the image below can be seen in the Photo Gallery of this website. To view this, click on the image above and scroll up to the first thumbnail in the photo gallery index and select that.

A view below the drive section The machinery below the drive section

Following is part of an article that appeared in The Referee newspaper on 17th December 1913. It is titled THE TOTALISATOR WHICH ENSURES INSTANTANEOUS REGISTRATION with a subtitle of OTHER GREAT IMPROVEMENTS--ACCEPTABLE CHRISTMAS BOX FOR DEVOTEES OF THE MACHINE. It relates to the first of the Julius Totes which was installed at Ellerslie as shown in the images above and is considered the world's first automatic totalisator. This extract from the article follows a description of the problems with the totalisator business leading up to the introduction of the Julius Totes.

The Citation: A TOTALISATOR THAT REGISTERS INSTANTNEOUSLY (1913, December 17). Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), p. 7. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from


The feeling against all this kind of thing became so strong in New Zealand that the Government introduced a Bill, which is now law, to the effect that horses were not to be allowed to leave the post until the business of the totalisator was complete. To meet that objection they now try closing the machine five minutes before the advertised time of starting a race, and the horses are kept waiting at the post for the rest of the time. To the greatest tyro the evil effect of keeping highly-strung horses "banging about" must be obvious; and it is no wonder that at the big meeting at Auckland last Chrismas there was an outcry because horses had to be kept 20 minutes in the starter's hands before they got away. Summed-up, therefore, it will be seen that the main charge against the tote--as a tote--is its inability to complete its business by the time a race should be started, and from time to time various devices and schemes have been brought forward to do away with this dilemma; but without any material success.

For instance, "marble machines" were introduced. In these the pressing of a button or the touching of a lever released a marble, which got to the horse indicator, altered it, and then travelled to the indicator directing total investments. Not such a heavy procedure as might appear, but one, nevertheless, fraught with great possibilities of congestion--and congestion on a tote means confusion worse confounded.


However, believers in the totalisator have not diminished their efforts towards securing their objective, and it remains for a Sydney man to bring forward a machine which apparently is possessed of sufficient virtue to do all that is asked of it in the respect indicated, at any rate. The biggest problem of the totalisator seems to be solved; and several high-pressure tests of the model which the writer saw gave surprisingly satisfactory results. The new machine is the invention of Mr. G. A. Julius, a consulting engineer, of Culwulla Chambers, Sydney.


The external appearance of the machine does not differ to any extent from those generally known; but the "inner workings" do--considerably. The basis of all its working is electricity, which, by means of a wonderfully ingenious internal mechanism, permits of an instantaneous registration of every ticket sold, not only on the horse fancied, but on the grand total. Thus, if a ticket is taken on, say, No. 3, the total appearing against that number would be advanced one, while simultaneously the grand total would advance a similar degree. But that is only a minor virtue possessed by the machine. If every clerk sells tickets on a certain horse at the same time the record is just as fast and just as complete.

Webmaster's comment:

I am confused about the statement in the above paragraph which relates the basis of all working to be electricity. My understanding of the Ellerslie 1913 Julius tote system was that it was purely mechanical. The image at the top of this page, showing the drive section of the Ellerslie Julius tote clearly demonstrates it is mechanical, driven by weights. There is no sign of any electrical components here in the drive section, probably the first place one would expect to see evidence of electricity being utilised, with electric motors replacing weights. Additionally, there is no evidence of electrical elements in the image above, or in the other images of the 1913 Ellerslie Julius Tote in the Photo Gallery of this website. Furthermore, my understanding is that the Julius Totes only became electromechanical in 1917 with the introduction of the first of the Randwick Julius Totes. All subsequent Julius Totes were electromechanical. Some of the electromechanical Julius Totes, were nicknamed the "Electric Tote" starting with the Randwick system. In the second paragraph below, this article speculates about systems for larger applications like Randwick and Flemington racecourses which were electromechanical and hence had electrical elements. Subsequent Julius totes installed at Ellerslie were electromechanical. Perhaps there was already speculation in 1913 about utilising electricity in the Julius Tote to cope with the demands of larger operations. Everything else written in this article about the Ellerslie Julius Tote is recognisable.


That is a tremendous advance on past totalisator methods, and to obtain such a result on one machine alone would be sufficiently noteworthy to attract considerable attention; but the machine is so constructed that it is possible to connect any number of booths--near or far--all to operate in conjunction with the main structure. Little, indeed, but can be overcome by electricity; and as in a telephone exchange additional connections can go on indefinitely.

These additional booths obviously relieve the pressure at the main machine--indeed, on such courses as Randwick and Flemington it would be absolutely necessary to have several of them to cope with the demand for investment. And--here is the greatest of all the virtues of the machine--no matter how many booths, each records immediately and simultaneously every investment made on any. In short, the face of each is a replica of that of the central machine all the time, so that from one end of the course to the other everybody is able to tell the state of the market--not at any given point--but according to the total money invested all over the course. That is an essential, for it would be absurd to have machines in different parts of Randwick or Flemington probably paying varied dividends on the winning horse. Undoubtedly the greatest point of the machine under review is its power to treat all investments on one basis, even though received through many channels.

The manner of working the machine does not concern the public so much as its claim to obviate the bulk of the ambiguities of the current systems. If it did there is plenty of evidence from Auckland that it fulfils its promises; while there is also in the office of the inventor a large model which the writer saw tested in various ways and in the testing of which he assisted. His own experience in totalisators had made him conversant with the difficulties of running the machines to suit everybody, and a comprehensive examination and testing of this model convinced him that it opened the way to an altogether new era in totalisator wagering.

Webmaster's notes:

I find it interesting to hear modern computing concepts described for the first time in the language of 1913. The first paragraph after the heading above, refers to number of booths. A booth is a selling position containing the machinery that today would be regarded as an I/O (Input/Output) device like a terminal or TIM (Ticket Issuing Machine). In this, the first of the Julius Totes the equipment in the booths was permanently installed however in the very next installation at Gloucester Park, this equipment was self contained and portable, resembling more the terminals of today. Also it refers to being able to attach these booths near and far, a concept that today would be called a network. It also indicates that this is an expandable network. This paragraph refers to the main structure which today would be called a mainframe. As we have multiple operators for the multiple terminals this article has described a multi-user system. The second paragraph, referring to recording immediately and simultaneously every investment is a concept attributable to a real-time system. Another reference to the network and multi-user aspect of the system comes at the end of the second paragraph treat all investments on one basis, even though received through many channels.


The points outlined are sufficient to indicate that; but there is one other which must appeal to the public who know totalisators. Bearing in mind the instantaneous registration (on horse and aggregate) it will readily be seen what an immense advance is made in that the machine is locked absolutely in every respect--all windows, all ticket magazines, and the main indicator--by the ringing of the starter's electric bell which signals the despatch of his field. The second that bell rings it is impossible for any clerk to issue a ticket in any way whatever, while it is likewise impossible for any figure on any part of the machine to be altered. That great boon would not be possible, of course, without the greater blessing of instantaneous registration.

Webmaster's note:

In the paragraph above the words the machine is locked absolutely in every respect written in 1913, is probably the beginning of that massive computer concern today called security.

More of this Referee newspaper article can be read by slecting the Next page button in the navigation bar below.
A prior segment to this article extract can be read by selecting the Previous page button in the navigation bar below, then scrolling down to the bottom and doing the same in that page and finally scrolling down to the heading "Totes before the first Automatic Totalisator".


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The next page is page four of five relating to the Ellerslie system.

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