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 company founded to develop, manufacture and export these systems.

Old Dividends and Odds Display Generator

This is an image of the equipment used to generate a dividends display long ago, prior to the advent of Video Character Generators. It is an interesting glimpse at the march of technology and the way it used to be. This image was taken at the Gabba Greyhounds and was part of the equipment in the old main tote house in use when the old electromechanical Julius tote was in operation. The PDP11 minicomputer based tote system which I moved to Queensland with replaced this equipment and the Julius tote. The new system had a CCTV generating system manufactured by Automatic Totalisators. This allowed the computer systems to directly update the screen displays via the video character generators. This image shows how video character displays were generated prior to this development. A video camera was placed in front of a static display board where moulded characters were manually placed on the display board to provide the required information. The camera video was then distributed to the public display television systems around the track. The rotary switch knob panel was used to input odds for an odds display screen. The television feed would be switched to the odds display video whilst the display board was being updated. On the left hand edge of this image the right hand end of a Counter Tote can be seen. Between the Counter Tote and the rotary switch knob panel is a black oblong Counter Tote Display Panel. The Counter Tote is covered in the next image in the Photo Gallery, accessible by clicking on the image below. More after the images...

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This is an Automatic Totalisators photograph from Neville Mitchell's collection

Following are recollections from Neville Mitchell, a long serving Automatic Totalisators Engineer and Manager. He mentions George Klemmer, who I remember very well, an iconic Automatic Totalisators design engineer. He also mentions Charlie Barton who I also knew well and was the last Chief Engineer of the Julius Totes in Brisbane. As the Julius totes were replaced by the PDP11 computer based tote systems in 1979 Charlie continued to work for the company on the new computer totes. Neville also mentions Charlie doing the upgrade, of which the above image is a part of, which took place during a period when the Gabba acquired new facilities. This would have taken place some time before 1979 when this equipment was rendered redundant.

I remember this set of CCTV gear designed especially for the Gabba Greyhound track.

The input console was designed by a young cadet engineer working for George Klemmer. Each odds display two digits and a decimal point were controlled by rotary switches and a toggle switch for the decimal point,as shown on the photograph of the display console.

The rotary switches were custom made by AWA's OAK Switch division at Ashfield. The switch had seven switch banks one for each digit segment. The knobs were off the shelf standard instrument 12 numbered position, made by Agis a local company.

The small monochrome CCTV camera and its distribution system was supplied by others most likely AWA Rediffusion.

The system included a W & P counter tote, meant to be transportable. The doubles /Quinella was on punch tape machines.

Charlie Barton did the installation work it was about the time when the Gabba got new facilities, Grandstand upgrade, new tote selling line under the control room.

The odds display that Neville mentions, built up from two digit display units with a decimal point for each runner, is not visible in this image. Looking at the image, I think the dividends display board that is presently on display on the CCTV system is placed in front of the odds display panel. There were multiple devices like the one in the image at the Gabba when I first started working on these systems in Brisbane. Neville added the following relating to these miniature odds displays used for the CCTV system. Of course during a meeting, these knobs would have to be regularly manipulated during a race, to reflect the changing trends of betting.

The small Gabba 7 segment digital display was a glass encapsulated device with 7 filaments fixed to 8 connecting pins at the back, each device was about 12 mm wide 20 mm high and 10 mm deep. They were from Asia possibly Taiwan the Stanley Lamp Company which was also making our small lamps automotive style we used in 6" and 3 -1/4" lamp displays.

It is interesting to note, on the subject of odds displays prior to the advent of video character generators, that when the computer totes were first introduced a method of providing odds display was to have the computer systems print out the odds at regular intervals and these printed sheets were then placed in front of a video camera which broadcast the odds printouts around the track on the CCTV system.

Thinking of what the odds display from the equipment in the image might have been like I think in terms of comparing it with my experience with odds displays, which was during the era when computer totes were already well established. Two things immediately come to mind. What is the update repetition rate and what is the update time. All the odds display systems I have worked on have divided the lead-up to a race into update rate periods. For example longer than two hours till the race starts, between two and one hour, between one and half an hour, between half an hour and 15 minutes, between 15 minutes and 5 minutes and within five minutes. The fastest update repetition rate was usually every 30 seconds which in this example would be in the last five minutes. Outside of two hours to the race 30 minutes would probably suffice in most cases. Even if someone was permanently assigned to updating the knob and switch driven odds in the image on display I wonder how often a new set of odds were available to the operator to enter in the new figures which would determine the update repetition rate. One thing is fairly evident, new information would not have been quick to be displayed. This brings us to the update time. In the computer systems I worked on the update took place in a split second. Obviously that is radically different with the equipment in this image as reading through a list of odds and dialling everyone in using the knobs and switches would have been time consuming. With 90 knobs and their associated switches representing 45 two digit odds, if each odd took 10 seconds to enter the update time would be nearing 8 minutes with presumably a substantial increase in errors resulting from any shortening of the update time! How the level of service has improved over the years! During the high value punter era, probably in its heyday during the 1980s and 1990s there were instant complaints if there was any delays whatsoever in the 30 second repetition rate period closest to the race. A few seconds delay would be noticed and be sure to generate complaints. We even ensured that writes to the video frame buffer of the CCTV generating equipment was done during the television vertical retrace interval to eliminate the flashing effect associated with updating it during the active line period.

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