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The World's First Large-Scale, Multi-User, Real Time System.
By Don McKenzie

Industry Links
George Julius, Australia's Father Of Scientific & Industrial Research.
Brian Conlon's web site devoted to Automatic Totalisators Ltd.
Powerhouse Museum Automatic totalisator.
An Unlikely History of Australian Computing: the Reign of the Totalisator
CSIRAC Australia's first electronic digital computer
The World's First Large-Scale, Multi-User, Real Time System.
Was George Julius the inspiration for CSIRAC, Australia's first electronic digital computer?
My Early Tote Years - Don McKenzie
Is This Australia's First PC?

Please Note **** This page is a work in progress....... Commenced 16-Dec-2009, Current 1-Jan-2010
This is one of several pages relating to the history of the automatic totalisator, its invention in 1913, the inventor George Julius and the Australian company he founded in 1917. 

A data network with 30 terminals in 1913, and 273 by 1928!

Julius Tote: Adders and switch board for win place and forecast, White City London 1933. 
(Both Pictures)

This system ended up with 320 terminals.

Below is an email from Brian Conlon, (Automatic Totalisators Web Site) to David Demant, Museum of Victoria curatorial advice/research Team.

Basically, Brian is putting the case forward for Australia's Totalisator invention, as being The World's First Large-Scale, Multi-User, Real Time System, in the hope that the ATL shaft adder donation will become an important part of The Museum of Victoria's current display.

There are many aspects to Brian's email, that I am sure many people will not be aware of, so I have decided to use this email as a nucleus, to help heighten the profile of Sir George and his invention.

To encourage feedback, I have created a new category on my message board, and welcome any discussion on this subject.

This link is at:

Messages of interest and-or links will be added to this web page, to hopefully make the read more interesting.

Don McKenzie.


Brian Conlon's Email 16-Dec-2009

Dear David,

I find it curious how everyone sticks to themes that are well known. Everyone seems to clamour to be part of the advent of the computer especially the digital computer and there are so many players in that game. I think George Julius' contribution has far greater historic significance as it had many similarities with computer systems and were operational half a century before the digital computers that took over their functionality and is newsworthy as it is not something commonly known. There are some video clips on the totalisator history website showing a Julius tote in operation. When looking at the ticket issuing machine in use, nowadays, I think almost everyone would say this is part of a computer system. There is a school of thought that these early Australian Totalisators were the first computers.

The Vice President of the Australian Computer Museum Society Max Burnett, suggested that if more had been known about these Australian totalisators then the category of mechanical computing would probably have been established. A director of the London Science Museum Doron Swade wrote an article in New Scientist magazine titled “A sure bet for understanding computers” and wrote that the Julius totes were the “earliest online real time data processing and computation system” that the curators had identified. I visited the London Science Museum's backup stores at Wroughton with members of GLIAS (The Greater London Industrial Archaeological Soceity) last year, to have a look at the Harringay Julius tote they have preserved. Of course in Australia we have bulldozed all but one. Another example is the CCS the Computer Conservation Society a sub group of the British Computer Society which had a work in progress project to restore a Julius tote to a demonstrable condition. They wrote that they regarded the Julius totes to be "Large-scale, multi-terminal, real time computers". And the first one was operating in 1913! Long before the world's first electronic computer! And these were uniquely Australian!

The Australian company George founded to develop and export his invention, Automatic Totalisators, became a world monopoly in the field of automatic totalisators in its early years.

One of the largest of these systems was installed in Longchamps France in 1928 with 273 terminals. This was a large scale multi user real time system with no sign of the world's first so called computer in sight. I wondered for some time about the nickname a Paris newspaper attributed to the Lonchamps Julius tote "The Insatiable Moloch". Moloch was the god of the Cananites who demanded extreme sacrifice. I concluded that unlike today the populace had never seen machines that extract money from people so quickly and relentlessly and that this nickname resulted from an observation of a system with an appetite for money which could not be satisfied. One of these electromechanical totalisator systems was built and tested in Sydney in 1920 capable of supporting 1000 terminals and a sell rate of 250,000 per minute which is good by today's standards! The system in White City in London ended up with 320 terminals.

As Professor Trevor Cole wrote from Sydney University regarding George Julius "We need to be aware of our engineering heroes". I regard this as a pity as we tend to ignore our own. And again from Professor Martyn Webb from the University of Western Australia "One can hardly believe that such a man could go almost unnoticed and unrecognised".

I thought I might mention this in case someone finds the shaft adder which was donated to the Museum of Victoria, so that it could be put into some sort of context, in the hope that some day it may be seen as worthy of being put on display.

Regards Brian Conlon.

Was George Julius the inspiration for CSIRAC, Australia's first electronic digital computer?
By Don McKenzie

Sir George Julius 1914 Totalisator Model Powerhouse Museum Sydney

CSIRAC Videos:
The Computer "CSIRAC" (1965) - Part 1 of 2

The Computer "CSIRAC" (1965) - Part 2 of 2

I have been searching for some time to find a link between Sir George Julius, inventor of the Totalisator, and CSIRAC, Australias first electronic digital computer. I believe I have just found that link via David Myer, a 14-year-old school boy.  Sir George was also the first Chairman of Australia's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, now the world-famous Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (C.S.I.R.O.)

Quoting From The Rutherford Journal: by  Lindsay Barrett and Matthew Connell
"Myers would eventually become one of the CSIRO’s chief computer scientists and he was instrumental in, amongst other things, the development of CSIRAC. It was a glorious career, and in fact it was a career that Myers had been set upon ever since the day George Julius had visited his high school and given a lecture on the Totalisator and mechanical calculation, an inspirational talk within which the young schoolboy had found a lifetime of encouragement."

Quoting From ABC Radio:
This is an audio recording "from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney with Matthew Connell, the curator of Computing and Mathematics. His Jewel is not so much an artwork as it is an invention. It looks like an old-fashioned, ornate, carved wooden cabinet, the sort for displaying your best crystal, except that inside this cabinet there's a gloriously complicated machine with shiny brass knobs. It was built in 1914 and it's the world's first successful totalisator model. It was invented and marketed by Sir George Julius, who was actually trying to make a vote-counting machine, but found there was much more interest at the time in developing a machine to calculate the odds on horse races".

More information can be found with google: "george julius" "david myers" csirac, and combinations of the individual names and CSIRAC

CSIRAC (pronounced sigh – rack) stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Automatic Computer.

Quoting from Matthew Connell, the the curator of Computing and Mathematics, Powerhouse Museum in Sydney:
What is your favourite object in the collection?
"My favourite object is the Tote Model built by George Julius between 1908 and 1912 as a prototype and demonstration for prospective customers of his automatic totalisator. It is a beautiful piece of complex machinery, which led to the establishment of an Australian company (Automatic Totalisators Limited) that dominated the international tote industry for 67 years. I am also very fond of idea that Australia’s contribution to the history of computing stems as much from our gambling urges as to our military and scientific endeavours."

Another article of interest from the Rutherford Journal:The First Automatic Totalisator
From Data Processing to Digital: The Development Of A Profession (A.C.S. PDF File) Follows the Industry Milestones from 1801 to 2001, and covers both the George Julius Tote, and CSIRAC.

Just prior to commencing this article, I coined the term: George Julius, Australia's Father Of Scientific & Industrial Research, as I felt it was very fitting for such a man, who has been to date, almost forgotten about when it comes to Australia's scientific history. I chose the words very carefully, as I know the flack one can receive from posting statements such as this in newsgroups, blogs, and other modern Internet communication methods. It doesn't leave a lot of room for argument.

Don McKenzie.