Think of Australia and your mind immediately conjures up images of surfers on golden beaches, amazing nature in the outback, casino high rollers risking it all on the pokies, tech firms unleashing the latest innovations…
If that last image seems a little incongruous, it really shouldn’t. Tech is the third highest contributor to Australia’s GDP and the nation has a reputation for innovative thinking and sometimes, for rushing in where angels fear to tread. Not convinced? Here are some technological wonders from Down Under.
Google Maps originated in Sydney
Google is a company that is currently investing millions in Australian infrastructure and partnerships as part of its Digital Future Initiative. Part of the reason for that is the company has first hand experience of what Australian tech firms can achieve.
Back in 2003, Noel Gordon and Stephen Ma founded a digital mapping business in Sydney. It was originally intended for use in the shipping and logistics industry, but it soon became obvious that this was only scratching the surface of its potential. A year later, Google took one look at it and made the business partners an offer they could not refuse. So Google Maps was born, and within months, alternatives like multimap were eradicated from the face of the internet.
An Aussie billionaire invented the modern casino slot game
Wait, you might think, this can’t be right – surely the slot game is a US invention. It’s true that the original Liberty Bell, which used card symbols on reels to spin a poker hand, was invented in the US. Charles Fey’s machine was a huge hit worldwide, and especially in Australia. Even when the symbols changed from cards to fruits, Aussies still called the games “pokies” – short for poker machines – and the name has stuck to this day.
Australians could not get enough of them – this went from figurative to literal in the early 1950s, when tighter laws in the US sent several slot machine manufacturers out of business. Aspiring Sydney entrepreneur Len Ainsworth realized that some of the space in his father’s factory could be repurposed for making pokies, and Aristocrat Leisure was born.
Ainsworth also had a few ideas for extra features to make the games more interesting. He introduced the concept of scatters and multiline payouts that are now standard features on the pokies we play today at Australian online casinos with real money. Len Ainsworth will celebrate his 100th birthday later this year – as one of Sydney’s wealthiest men, he can afford to celebrate with a few real money wagers of his own!
The first feature film was shot in Melbourne
Here’s a useful piece of information for any quizzer. When The Story of the Kelly Gang premiered in the Athenaeum Hall, Melbourne on Boxing Day 1906, it was the longest narrative film ever. The movie had a run time of 60 minutes and the reel was about 4,000 feet long. Castlemaine native Charles Tate was the director, and he wrote the screenplay in partnership with his brother, John.
Back then, films were about five minutes in length, so it will come as no surprise that the movie was a massive hit and soon recouped the $1,000 production cost. This was in spite of the cast being largely comprised of the promoters and their friends and families who, according to contemporary movie director W. J Lincoln, “made no pretensions to any great histrionic talent.” Sadly, only about 17 minutes of the film have been preserved.
Australia leading the way in quantum computing
Australian innovation is still alive and well in the 21st century. Quantum computing represents the future of technology and we are only taking out first tentative steps. By “we” what we actually mean is researchers in Australia. Those first steps have involved vital pieces of intellectual property including development of 2-quantum bit gates and control chips that are capable of operating close to absolute zero. These are baby steps in themselves, but they are also fundamental building blocks that will unlock the full potential of quantum computing.
All these steps have been made by Australian technological pioneers, who are working to a timeline counted in decades, not years. Industry experts have predicted that by 2040, Australia’s quantum technology industry will be huge, generating something in the region of AU$4 billion annual revenue and employing more than 16,000 people.
Australia’s future as a leader in technological innovation is as certain as its past.
Word count: 745
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius