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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The World's First Automatic Totalisator

And Online Real Time Multi User System

The Ellerslie Mechanical Computer Room

This is an image of the world's first automatic totalizator at Ellerslie in 1913. It is now over a century since this system commenced operation. Although this first automatic totalisator looked like a giant tangle of piano wires, pulleys and cast iron boxes and many racing officials predicted that it would not work, it was a great success. Looking at the mass of wiring on the right hand side of the image and seen running horizontally inside the frame it is easy to see how these systems utilised miles of flexible wire.
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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--an online real time multi user computing system over a century ago!

For those readers who have arrived here by navigating through this website sequentially, as you have by now gained a wealth of knowledge regarding this rather voluminous subject of the history of the automatic totalisator, we can now focus on the system where all this history started. For those readers who arrived from the Photo Gallery and have not read anything else about this history, the Racetrack Magazine article below titled The Galloping Gourmets, gives a quick introduction to this subject.

These early automatic totalizators were completely mechanical and consisted of Ticket Issuing Machines coupled to Drum Indicator Adder Units, all housed in the one building for one pool only. Miles of flexible wire cables connected the Ticket Issuing Machines to the Indicator/Adder Units. A considerable length of bicycle chain ran over sprockets and heavy cast iron weights were used for drive power. Apart from being the world's first automatic totalisator, this system is significant in the history of computing as it is the first online real time multi user system.

Note the weights with runner numbers on them dangling from wires to the right of the staircase in the image above. These provided the motive force for the aggregating equipment. Below the platform level at the bottom of the staircase and to the right of the platform below the weights numbered 21 11 and 22, three selling stations are visible. Some of the operator controlled beer tap like handles are visible on the two right hand selling stations rising upwards and to the left. Three of the knobs at the tip of the handles are visible in the left hand set of handles and five visible on the right hand set. These handles register the bets and produce tickets.

The Ellerslie mainframe in the image above, contains three layers of equipment each consisting of mechanical shaft adders and counter wheel displays for ten runners in a race. The top layer handled runners one to ten, the second runners eleven to twenty and the third runners twenty one to thirty. Using the staircase in the image above as a measure, the base of the first layer intersects with the staircase just below the fifth step down, the second layer intersects just below the ninth step down the third layer intersects just below the fourteenth step down or the second step visible above the bannister. The top layer of this equipment can be seen in the image below where nine of the ten sets of counter wheels can be seen on the far right hand side. Some of the second layer machinery can be seen by looking below this first level in the vicinity of the right hand bottom of the image below.

It is interesting to see the pile of wood planks on the left hand edge, near the bottom of the image above, on the platform at the base of the stairs. It seems that this photo was taken in very early days indeed, as it appears that the wood infrastructure in the photo is being built at that time.

The top layer of the Ellerslie mainframe Image of the top adder section of the Ellerslie machine

Following is an extract from a 1974 article in Racetrack Magazine titled The Galloping Gourmets, which takes a look back at this system and provides a glimpse at following totalisator history:

The Galloping Gourmets

One of the most important cogs in the wheel of racing is the Totalisator, the machine which is continually fed by punters but always remains famished. The public attempts to sate the monster's appetite by betting more and more each year, but the efforts are in vain.

Where did this "gobbling creation" come from, and what has been its effect on racing throughout the world?

It is difficult to imagine a time when totalisators were not used in racing and, as stated in a booklet produced by Automatic Totalisators Limited (ATL), it would be "like a car without wheels".

The wheels of the totalisator system began to roll more than 55 years ago when the brilliant Australian engineer George Julius created the world's first Automatic Totalisator System in the form of a strange and ungainly mechanical unit. This machine, a conglomeration of wheels and cogs, was set loose upon an unsuspecting racing public at Ellerslie Racecourse in new Zealand in 1913.

Automatic Totalisators Limited was founded in 1917 and specialised in the manufacturing and installation of these strange machines. The company's task was facilitated somewhat during its foundation year with the introduction of electricity, thus resulting in the Automatic Electro-mechanical Totalisator.

The seeds were sown. ATL's motto became "progression" and during the last 50 years it has endeavoured to discover new methods by which to cater for the betting demands of the public. Its machines were hungry, and the public was willing to feed them.

In 1920 seven Australian racecourses had introduced the Electro-mechanical system, and some of them are still operating at full capacity today. This fact can either be a tribute to the manufacturing company for creating such hardy machines, or indicative of how some race clubs have failed to retain the same level of progression as the company.

One of ATL's greatest triumphs was the introduction of the Totalisator to the picturesque French racecourse, Longchamps, in Paris. It was installed in 1928, a time in which the knowledge of mechanical calculating systems was very limited. Yet, not so short of 50 years of service, the Longchamps punters are still battling against those same machines in an effort to take away a dream from the racecourse.

Automatic Totalisators Limited has installed the same service on more than 200 racecourses in 30 countries throughout the world. There are some countries which Australian punters would not even consider conducted race meetings, and perhaps they would not have done so had they not been able to provide the public with a complete service.

These countries include the Philippines, India, Sweden, Ghana, Eire, Iraq, Spain, Brazil, Burma, Ceylon, France, Canada, Nigeria, Jamaica, Pakistan, England, Trinidad, Rhodesia, Malaysia, Columbia, Thailand, Scotland, Indonesia, Singapore, Venezuela, Hong Kong, New Zealand, United States of America, South Africa and of course Australia.

The betting demands of all of these countries are catered for by ATL.

That is the end of the Galloping Gourmets article. The first sentence in this article is interesting to me particularly the extract the Totalisator, the machine which is continually fed by punters but always remains famished. This is an interesting analogy to a sentiment that was portrayed in a Paris newspaper in referring to the Longchamps Julius Tote as The Insatiable Moloch. This is particularly pertinent as the article above mentions Longchamps in the eighth paragraph. So the Julius Tote kept getting fed by punters but always remains famished or in other words incapable of being satisfied or as the Paris newspaper puts it insatiable. My understanding of Moloch is that he was the God of the Canaanites and demanded extreme sacrifice. It could be said that a lot of money has been sacrificed on racetracks in search of a dream. This sentiment is portrayed again in the above article by the comment the Longchamps punters are still battling against those same machines in an effort to take away a dream from the racecourse

And now for another point of interest regarding the Galloping Gourmets article, which refers to the Longchamps Julius totalisator being in operation for a period getting close to half a century. Jérôme Carrus CEO of PMC (Périphériques et Matériels de Contrôle) and CPM, French totalisator companies, informed me that PMC replaced the Julius tote at Longchamps with a computer system in 1973 after it had been working for 45 years. The engineers at PMC were so impressed with the Longchamps Julius Tote that they donated parts of it to the Musée des arts et métiers after it was decommissioned. The Caracas Julius Tote in Venezuela did make the half a century of service.

Totes before the first Automatic Totalisator

Before progressing forward with the history of the automatic totalisator, it is worth having a quick look at the state of totalisators prior to this invention particularly as the above article states It is difficult to imagine a time when totalisators were not used in racing. Below is an extract from an article that appeared in a Sydney newspaper the Referee in 1913 titled THE TOTALISATOR WHICH ENSURES INSTANTANEOUS REGISTRATION. It relates to the Ellerslie 1913 Julius Tote, which is the subject of this and other similar pages in the Ellerslie section of the Photo Gallery of this website.

The Citation: A TOTALISATOR THAT REGISTERS INSTANTNEOUSLY (1913, December 17). Referee (Sydney, NSW : 1886 - 1939), p. 7. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from
The following extract, follows a description in the newspaper article of a manual tote operation:

All that is plain sailing--to tote officials and the public alike--but the bugbear to date has been the recording of sales. Under the old system it was customary to have one man doing nothing but tallying sales. Perhaps two or three might be employed in various sections. Each of these would work along the line of sellers, taking notes of sales on one, two or three horses at a time, and call to the man or men manipulating the board, which shows on the outside the progress of individual and total investments. Obviously this was a most laborious way of recording the business of the machine, and it was quite patent to everybody that, with anything approaching extensive wagering, the tote could not hope to complete its recording prior to the start of a race. And such is human nature that where a machine was still running during the progress of a race (notwithstanding that every window closed simultaneously with the ringing of an electric bell, indicating the start), there were invariably comments on the honesty of "those fellows inside." On that score, however, little need be said. For even if those inside were no more honest than those outside, there was mighty little opportunity, in a properly-organised staff, for them to indulge in "dipping." For one thing, a tote clerk has to show a balance-sheet every day; and any deficiency he has to make good.

Another fault in some of the machines was that they registered only in tens till the close, when the units were adjusted where necessary. In some cases, however, even that was not done, and many a disappointed backer has looked for a dividend based on a division, say, between ten ticket-holders when the machine really recorded 19.

Of course, every one knows how common it was for a machine to be still registering when a race was over; but a great deal of the criticism levelled at the tote people would surely have never been uttered had the public the slightest conception of the terrible pace at which they are called upon to work to supply backers. Criticism of a machine was justifiable, for a tote should be able to close its doors and show its holding at any given moment; but no number of men, no matter how hard they worked, could have made that possible under old conditions.

To read the following extract from the Referee newspaper article, select the Next Page button in the Navigation Bar below, then scroll down and do the same in the next page. Finally, scroll down to the heading DOMINION GOVERNMENT'S EFFORT TO MEET THE POSITION


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The next page is page two of five relating to the Ellerslie system.
The previous page is page three of three relating to the World's Largest Tote at White City Stadium London.

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