This technology 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 Australian company founded by George Julius in 1917 to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

Early Electrical Component Manufacture

It is thought that this image is inside the Automatic Totalisators Limited factory at Alice Street Newtown in Sydney. My experience in the electronics industry started in 1970, a time when any component you wanted was already being mass produced. It was my guess that the manufacture being performed in this image was of capacitors, batteries or inductors. I had excluded the possibility of transformers as the devices seen here appear to have only two terminals. Neville Mitchell informed me that they are manufacturing capacitors. I have included more about this from Neville Mitchell after the image.

The young man standing in the foreground on the right hand side of the table seems to be controlling some electrical test equipment. He is probably performing a quality control function, ensuring the manufactured devices meet the specifications. The wooden box on the table with Reckitt's Blue written on the side, in front of the first man seated on the left, refers to the box's original use, containing a product of that name, which was a laundry rinse, a water additive for whitening clothes, popular till the 1950s. The box's new role is to contain the devices being manufactured here.

I do not think the boxes being used as seats would pass any modern OH&S posture standards, as this long pre-dates such considerations. Only two or three of the people in this photo are of an age that you would see in a first world factory these days. Some are much younger than today's standard.

More after the image...

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There is no photographers stamp on the photograph

Following are extracts of an email from Neville Mitchell, the best ATL company historian I know:

The photo showing the manned capacitor production line is typical of the era. To the rear right you can see the young boys with winding machines, rolling the aluminium and insulating materials forming the capacitor may be 1 uf @ 100 VDC. The completed product was enclosed in a extruded vented aluminium can and sealed after filling with a Salamoniac solution.

The man with the test set up was possibly testing for insulation leakage using a high voltage 500 VDC Megga.

This type of capacitor had a limited life cycle, when used in valve radios as filters, for the rectified high voltage, they tended to dry out. The radio would develop a 100 cps hum. They were a problem, as you turned the radio upside down to do a repair, the electrolyte would leak out. Thankfully in my time we had fully sealed dry electrolytic capacitors, which we would connect directly across the old capacitors.

Julius used oil filled capacitors, later found to contain PCBs, a nasty substance. They were manufactured by the DUCON CAPACITOR company in Christina Street Chester Hill.

The Mezzanine work area where the photo was taken would have been very cold and hot according to the season. The men's seating was also notable, just packing cases! Work Cover would have a fit at these conditions.

After Neville read my comment regarding the young faces in this image he sent a further interesting email about the apprentices at Automatic Totalisators. An extract follows.

Regarding your remark about the boys working on the crude production line. ATL had a excellent policy regarding young apprentices, on average during the 1960s to 1980s there was up to 27 apprentices working in Meadowbank.

It was actually cheap labour, although they went to technical college one day a week, they were required to work at the race tracks on Wednesdays & Saturdays, trots & greyhounds in the evenings.

There was a dedicated Apprentice Master, a Ron Piddle* who looked after all their work and training needs. These boys did very well out of ATL they all drove good cars and dressed well.

Each year the boys participated in the construction of an Impulse jet engine.{a la NAZI buzz bomb.} At the Christmas holiday factory close-down morning tea, the engine was mounted on a heavy cast iron bench and would be fired up, to the delight of all the assembled staff. The noise was amazing coming from such a small engine.

At the end of the 5 year apprenticeship they were encouraged to leave ATL to gain other experience, many did return later as tradesmen. There was a definite ratio of apprentices to tradesmen requirement. Others went on to be very successful business people.

* The spelling is correct, Ron was a top guy, I went to his funeral many years ago, a celebrant dressed in a grey dust coat as Ron always wore, leant on his coffin and spoke to Ron as if in conversation about his life.