This history page contains an image 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.

Development of a Paper-Tape Tote System

I have presented this image here as it relates to a statement made in the text associated with the previous image in the Photo Gallery. It reads When I arrived on the scene at the Brisbane tracks, the company was operating Doubles Totes based on paper-tape recording. This statement relates to the beginning of 1979 and the image below shows what the machinery I saw, which was pending being replaced by the new computer based totalisator systems I was working on, looked like. I was accustomed to paper-tape systems at the time, the sort attached to Model 33 ASR Teletype machines and the ones used with DEC PDP 11 systems, which were a lot more compact and used a lot narrower paper-tape, making the equipment in the image below look very outdated. This photograph seems to have been taken in the developmental stage or shortly after, judging by what looks like a blackboard drawing of a simple vacuum tube circuit and associated calculations, in the top left corner. I started work in the electronics industry with AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia) in 1970. Transistors were quite well established but there still were die-hards who professed that valves were superior to transistors. Neville Mitchell the best company historian I know, had the following experience, something I have heard from multiple sources. Neville wrote Whilst studying industrial electronics, I bought a transistor radio from a sailor at the Ship Inn at Circular Quay Sydney, it cost 10 pounds. I took it to a lecture and we took it apart. The instructor told us that transistors were a novelty and would never take on.

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Following is information extracted from a company document related to paper tape or what is termed in this article punched tape systems.

At this time the company entered the busiest period of manufacture and installation in its life. Simultaneously it was manufacturing and installing equipment for racetracks in India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America. In all, it installed equipment in 99 race tracks throughout the world between 1948 and 1955. The bulk of this equipment was for Win, Place pools only. At this stage, it catered for doubles and quinella pools with small fields only, but very soon after was confronted with the possibility of having to provide equipment for 24 starter fields.

The first real challenge came when all the Melbourne racetracks wanted combination pool equipment. In 1955 the company conceived the idea of using the principle of punched tape for recording investments on these pools and, in 1956 the company provided equipment in Melbourne using newly designed J10 24 starter ticket issuing machines, along with punched tape recorder and electronic readers. This equipment marked another milestone in the history of progress and within several years, this punched tape combination betting equipment was installed in South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, and every capital city in Australia.

The company advanced into the sixties installing conventional equipment throughout the world, with the betting trend swinging more towards the combination betting pools than ever. Public indication of the state of betting in these pools had always been a problem. At Harold Park, the company installed a quinella indicator with 66 combinations, that is, quinella odds for 12 starters.

Following is information provided by Neville Mitchell who identified the person in this image.

The photo of Don Hardie was taken in the Melbourne Doubles Tote mobile circa 1955 when it made its debut at Caulfield racecourse. The photo shows white paper in the reader, I always thought that black 50 mm ticket paper rolls were used. The printing of the black paper tape was strictly controlled for ink density with no voids that could give false readings.

Did you notice the schematic showing the Photo Electric vacuum tube circuit? In the photo the long tubular lamp on the read heads is in view, it was a 48 volt, 40 watt, 100 mm long incandescent tube lamp that became obsolete. Eventually these lamps became unprocurable. Alf Lesins, the then drawing office manager asked me to investigate a replacement. I could not locate any source of supply. Things were becoming desperate. The on-course engineers were concerned that they would lose a whole race meeting because there was no working lamps. I devised a replacement using automobile "Festoon" lamps. Four lamps 12 volt 10 watts mounted in series on a fibreglass board which was mounted and hard wired into the lamp housing. This solved the lamp problem for all national and international Doubles equipment users and became the standard spare part as doubles recorders and readers were no longer produced.

About this time Val Adams & Alan Lakeman Sydney's on-course chief engineers came to me to complain that the alkaline batteries used to power the doubles electronics were not holding up for an entire race day. Apparently their requests to the state manager had fallen on deaf ears. I spent several race days with them, to keep the systems operating. The battery chargers had to be connected sometime on race day. I took a new set of batteries and a supplied battery charger, out of the stores. It was quite a task filling the dry batteries with the caustic electrolyte. With the specifications in hand I set up the batteries and a resistive load and metering. When the battery charger indicated fully charged I started the load test. It was far short of the specified delivery. I procured another brand of charger and redid the test with excellent results. Comparing the unloaded voltage output form the standard charger to the new one there was a difference of +6 volts. Not wanting to rock the budget I modified the Sydney doubles chargers by adding a 6 volt 60 watt Ferguson transformer to boost the output and allow the batteries to fully charge. The Sydney crew were delighted with the result saying I was the only one who would help to solve their problem. Problem solved but I still got chatted up for "interfering".

Talking Doubles operations: Del Linkhorn, when he was chief engineer at Ellerslie in NZ wrote an "Operators Manual" for his doubles /quinella system. Del ex RAF detailed every aspect of the race day procedure. it was a fascinating document. Most doubles stuff ups were because standard procedures were ignored or by some other distraction. In Del's instructions was a detail that had the scissors used to cut the tapes, were to be secured on a length of cord, so they could not be lost! Cup of tea breaks were at specific times, etc. Ron Hood had a copy of it, I never had one.

Its a pity there are no Doubles Recorder or Readers in archives that I know of, there was quite a number of these systems operating in Australia, NZ, South Africa, & Malaysia

In December 2020, Bill Johnson, ex Automatic Totalisators Limited Engineer and Manager, confirmed that the engineer in the image above is Don Hardy. He spelt the surname ending in y whilst Neville spelt it ending in ie. After Bill noticed Neville had already identified Don above, he added that he was not sure whether the name ends in y or ie. He also wrote the following in his email: I think I mentioned before, Don was married in Durban circa 1937 and my father was best man. Bill's father, also named Bill Johnson, also worked for Automatic Totalisators Limited. Bill's brother Jeff Johnson, also worked for Automatic Totalisators Limited. Jeff started out in a very significant, historic and iconic Australian technology company, as did I, named AWA as previously mentioned, an acronym for Amalgamated Wireless Australasia. Jeff is also famous for his amazing gulf to gulf charity walk, from the Spencer Gulf up to the Gulf of Carpentaria, across the remote, arid, hot and inhospitable middle of Australia. I have flown light aircraft over much of this track and I was very happy not having to drive and find it incomprehensible how someone non indigenous could walk it. Bill sent a later email on December 12 in which he added the following, informing me about Jeff's second charity walk East to West across Australia: Jeff also walked across Australia the longest way in 2011 when he was 70. The previous walk was the shortest way. No support during the first walk but insurance requirements required a support vehicle for his second walk. Similarly, I have flown a Twin Comanche from Bankstown to Perth with refuelling stops of course and I recall on seeing the Eyre Highway thinking that I am glad I am not down there. The Eyre Highway is a major part of the National Highway system but Jeff walked the Anne Beadell Highway which I would describe as an unsealed very rugged bush track, which is further North in more arid remote and hostile country. It leaves me with the same feeling of incredulity coming to grips with the fact that someone had walked it, let alone someone who was 70 years old at the time. I am now 70 and I would consider it a major undertaking to drive across Australia!

Following is information extracted from an article by Peter Collier, Ex Chief Engineer Automatic Totalisators Limited Victoria, titled Doubles Betting Comes to Melbourne dated 7 February 2011 which appears on Don McKenzie's website on Automatic Totalisators in Victoria.

The recording equipment was a set of electromagnets that moved a system of rods and bars that were moved under the main solenoid that when energised would then drive the selected punches through the paper tape recording the combination as a set of 4 holes (or 3 holes if the selection in 1 leg was a field bet) across the paper, 2 holes represented a runner in the first leg and 2 holes represented the runner in the second leg. When the solenoid released the paper was advanced so that it was in position for the next bet to be recorded. After the first leg of the double was run the paper tape that recorded the bets was wound through to provide a leader and then cut off, a length was then wound through and fed on to the bobbin on the recorder in readiness for recording the next race. The paper tape was then mounted on the reader and the switches set for the winner of that race and all runners in the second leg in sequence and the tape was passed over the reading head and the number of selections counted and displayed on an electronic readout. After all reading was completed it was then possible to declare odds for the second leg and the figures were available for the calculation of the dividend when the second leg winner was known.

... Each punch tape recorder was capable of supporting 32 ticket issuing machines using an access set that allowed only one ticket machine to record a bet at a time.

... The original paper tape readers used thermionic valves to electronically count the combinations as they were passed over the reading head which was made up of 18 photo electronic sensors with an incandescent light above the paper tape. As the paper with the holes punched in it passed over the read heads the sensors would detect the row of holes and the rest of the electronics would count the combinations that had been selected by the switches. Each reader consisted of two read heads over which the paper tape was passed and each head was independent of the other which meant each read was checked against the other head. This was what ATL called "the check on the check". Each horse was represented by 2 holes in each leg of the race (unless it was a field bet).

A full sized version of the following image appears in the photo album of this website. To view this full sized version, click on the image at the top of this page and scroll down in the index to the heading Images of ATL company brochures donated by Chris Robertson, then further down in that section to the image thumbnail with the descriptive text starting with the sentence An ATL product information brochure on the Doubles Equipment then click on that thumbnail.

A page from an ATL brochure on the Doubles Tote An image of a Double Counter Panel

Following is more information provided by Neville Mitchell on the Doubles equipment which can be related to the diagram in the above brochure titled TYPICAL MACHINE ROOM LAYOUT.

The ATL doubles equipment was four units, first, the Paper tape transport and punch, the second was the reader. There was usually two control cubicles. One was the race controller, containing the various relay sets, not unlike a modern TCC (Webmaster's note: TCC - Tote Control Console). From memory >> Control panel, Relay sets= 1) Control 2) Guard Relay Set 3) Routiner. Power supplies 50 and 12 volts were included in the usual doubles systems.

The second unit contained the access relay sets. Each set was for 10 X J10 TIMs. (Webmaster's note: TIMs are Ticket Issuing Machines) Up to 49 TIMs. One access position was for the Routiner, which provided internal self testing of the recorder and its associated paper tape punch.

The Guard Relay set was system to detect faults in the punch, it would set up an alarm if a punch solenoid failed.

The Reader had two READ HEADS, one after the other so both heads must have the same readout on their respective counters. The dials on each head were set to read the combination required. On reading the doubles tape, after the running of the first leg, multiple passes were performed. The left dial on each head was set to the winner and the right dial set to each runner in the second leg in sequence per pass and totals recorded. A last pass was done with the field selection on the right dial. In the event of a misread, the tape would be run backwards and forwards to determine a correct read.

Over many years the ATL doubles Quinella punch Tape recorder and reader did wonderful service. I do not know how many units were manufactured, there was an into stock production run of five each year.

The image at the top of this page looks like a posed photograph as the reader has only blank paper tape visible! There are two readers providing redundancy for error checking, as described by both Peter Collier and Neville Mitchell in their descriptions above. The two readers are clearly visible in the image at the top of this page. Don's left hand is lifting the lamp up on the right hand reader and the other reader is immediately on the left with its lamp in the lowered position ready for that reader to be used. There is no paper tape punch visible on the equipment in the main image at the top of the page, as there was in some of the punch/reader units I have seen, which were probably of a more modern design allowing immediate reading of what is being punched on the tape as an error check providing write confirmation. Additionally the diagram titled TYPICAL MACHINE ROOM LAYOUT in the brochure image above, indicates the punch would be in the unit called the RECORDER which is separate to the one labelled READER. This means that the image at the top of this page is only showing a paper tape reader, so it only makes sense for a punched tape to be loaded on this reader so something can be read from it. In conclusion, the image at the top of this page may be of a posed photograph if a blank paper roll is mounted on a read only system. It is possible however that the blank paper visible is just the leader to the punched section.

Posed photographs can be quite funny! I was photographed setting the record level on an 8 track audio tape in the Record and Rehearsal studio in the Opera House during the AWA installation there. There was no tape loaded on the machine!

I recall seeing another photograph taken in the ATL Research Department with the Engineering Manager sitting at a desk apparently analysing a problem with a PCB (Printed Circuit Board). He had a CRO (Cathode Ray Oscilloscope) probe attached to a component in the PCB circuitry and he was gazing at the CRO screen apparently deep in thought regarding the circuit problem and the CRO trace being presented. The problem with the photograph was that the PCB was not plugged into a backplane so it had no power or any interface electronics to work with so the CRO would have been conveying nothing!

I have made the observation on multiple occasions on this website, that any real-time system has at least one or more dreaded events that can be experienced on-line. Neville Mitchell sent an example of this, relating to this equipment operating a Doubles Tote, in an email after I had sent him a tote horror story relating to the system in Turffontein in South Africa. Neville wrote:

The episode of estimating the dividend on a fouled up tote, reminds me of a night at Bankstown Trots. I was working the doubles system all was running ok then I noticed that the paper tape was not incrementing and there was now a large "Slot" cut across the paper tape, I stopped the machine repaired the broken increment pawl and restarted betting, The three elderly guys in charge of the meeting estimated the dividend based on previous knowledge. On wash up we were only down by 5 cents per payout. I was unsettled by this event as My pie & Sauce had gone Cold!!