The Totalisator - An Algorithm that Led to an Industry
Before the advent of computers, special-purpose hardware was used to solve computational problems. For the pari-mutuel system of gambling the main problem was keeping accurate totals of the bets placed on each horse in a race, and the grand total of all bets, in the frenzied half hour before the race, when, at the larger racecourses, tens of thousands of bets would be placed at 100s of betting booths.
Mechanical solutions to this problem were pioneered by Sir George Julius who formed the company Automatic Totalisators Ltd., operating from Sydney, Australia. Indeed, this year is the centenary of Julius’ first machine which was set operating in Auckland, New Zealand in 1913.