Monday, April 15, 2013

A Centenary Slips By

At the Easter meeting for 1913 on 22nd and 24th March the Auckland Jockey Club set operating at their racecourse at Ellerslie in Auckland an automatic totalisator machine. The centenary of this event has slipped by without remark by the media (despite some reminders!) The reason that this was an interesting event is that this was the first such machine, the forerunner of a series of improved machines that were designed and operated up until the 1970s. Nowadays, the work of the totalisator (adding up the number of bets made on each horse) is still performed, but by computer programs.
The first automatic totalisator was designed by George Julius (later Sir) an engineer working out of Sydney. Unlike later totalisators, the first used no electricity and was driven entirely by clockwork. It was a huge machine as can be seen by comparison to one of the mechanics working on its assembly.
The machine is described here in a subset of a general history of totalisatorsOne may wonder why this anniversary has been unobserved? Horse racing used to be a very popular form of entertainment when there was little alternative. In the 1950s crowds of 50,000 people would gather at Ellerslie on race days. Now the races appeal to a much smaller group, because of alternative forms of entertainment and gambling, and the horse races themselves struggle to attract crowds. The races have become high society and fashion events. This seems to be the same the whole world over.
[This post was provided by Bob Doran]

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