This history 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.

The Flat at Eagle Farm Racecourse

This is an image of The Flat betting area at Eagle Farm Racecourse. This photograph was taken when the Julius Tote was still in operation. The Flat is unusual in that it existed in the infield area in the centre of the track. Access to and from any infield area is prohibited when a race is being run. Neville Mitchell informed me that The Flat areas on racetracks were for the "working class", they had small admittance prices 2/6 or 5/-, with usually meagre facilities or shelter. The reason I have presented this image is because I mentioned the Flat in the text associated with the first image of the Eagle Farm section of the Photo Gallery. I referred to it in the context of the historic buildings at the track giving the impression that nothing much changes when in reality a lot of changes do take place. In the second and third images in the Queensland Racecourses section of the Photo Gallery I have presented main tote houses that I saw demolished and this image is an example of change prior to my time at Eagle Farm. I inherited the engineering staff who used to work on the Julius totes prior to the advent of the computer totes that I introduced at Queensland racetracks. I recollect some of these ex Julius Tote engineers telling me about The Flat which no longer existed.

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The photographers stamp: PHOTOGRAPHY BY L. & D. KEEN (COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHERS) CITY MUTUAL BUILDING 309 QUEEN ST. BRISBANE.

Shortly after the introduction of the computer tote systems at Eagle Farm, Automatic Totalisators Limited installed a large lamp-box indicator in the infield. It was close to and on the left hand side of the indicator in the image, which was long gone at the time. It displayed the race number, Win and Place odds, minutes till race start, results, dividends, Judges display information, race duration time, in minutes seconds and tenths of a second and free-form public text messages. Probably not initially intended, but this new indicator became the most photographed and videoed part of the computer era tote equipment. The race videos showing the runners racing up to the winning post had the indicator go past in the background. What was intended is to place the indicator where punters looking at the track could easily see it and this principle is also evident from this image showing The Flat Indicator, looking across the track from the outfield. I think the Indicator in this image is a combination of two types of indicator. The Win and Place odds are a blind-type indicator and the Double Will-pays or what some call Double Approximates, part of the indicator, is a lamp-box type. Both these indicator types are names derived from the method of displaying the digits. The new lamp-box indicator was considerably longer and taller than the one in this image. Having mentioned the Double Will-Pays, the previous image in this section of the Photo Gallery shows the paper-tape equipment on which the doubles tote of this era was based.

My staff and I looked after all the computer tote equipment including the new lamp-box indicator. I can remember being involved in a few difficult to identify problems with the Lamp-box indicator, which resulted in significant overtime to repair. One of them I found rather amusing, being related to wildlife. After quite a lengthy analytical procedure, I discovered a data bus cable, that supplied character data to 24 lamp boxes, had half of its conductors severed. A semicircle of cable with a radius of half the width of the cable was missing from a segment of it. The edge of the semicircle looked serrated looking like it was done with small teeth. I presumed it was a small animal probably a rat. The rodent, if that is what it was, had not bitten the cable out in one bite, as the semicircle was too large, but gnawed at the cable moving his head from side to side forming a nibbled out arc. The cable lay in a cable tray buried in other cables concealing it from view, when performing a quick examination of the mass of cabling.

This new lamp-box indicator stood in the infield near the winning post. When this new indicator was installed and my staff and I spent time working on this indicator I noticed remnants of the flat. To the east of this new indicator were some cement foundations where The Flat used to be. There were some stairs leading down from ground level into a long trench which possibly aligned with and lay below the indicator in the image. It was reminiscent of a large vehicle inspection trench for working on the underside of road vehicles if you did not have a hydraulic hoist.

During one of my visits to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Matthew Connell, who was Curator of Science and Mathematics at the time and now is Principal Curator, was showing me over the Museum's Automatic Totalisators archive. We were wading through voluminous piles of documents and photographs. I came to a photograph, and at a glance it appeared somewhat familiar however I quickly categorised it as not particularly interesting and moved on in the pile. Matthew stopped me and suggested I take a closer look at the photograph. Now I recognised the location of the photograph, which was the western entrance stairway into the Eagle Farm lamp-box indicator building, which piqued my interest. Next brainwave was I should know the person standing on the stairway as my staff were the only ones working on the equipment inside. My next impression was how geeky the person looked in such a wide tie, now long outdated. The next inspiration was to look at the face to identify the person. Revelation at last, it was a young me! I found it curious that I had not instantly recognised myself from the start. I think Matthew recognised me from the start. After my realisation that a photograph of me was in the Museum's collection he uttered to me Ah, you are a subject of public record now!