my own personal hope for the future is that we won’t have to build any more random number generators…

Came perchance upon this reminiscence about the generation of the 10⁶ random digits found in the book published by the RAND Corporation. It took them a month to produce half a million digits, exploiting a “random frequency pulse source gated by a constant frequency pulse” behaving like a “roulette wheel with 32 positions, making on the average 3000 revolutions on each turn”. As the outcome failed on the odd/even ratio test, the RAND engineers randomized further the outcome by adding “(mod 10) the digits in each card, digit by digits, to the corresponding digits of the previous card”. (Cards as in punched cards, the outcome being printed 50 digits at a time on I.B.M. cards.) A last piece of Monte Carlo trivia is that the electronic roulette at the basis of this random generator was devised by Hastings, Cecil not Wilfred Keith. (And RAND is an abbreviation of Research and Development, not of randomness!)

One Response to “my own personal hope for the future is that we won’t have to build any more random number generators…”

  1. Really interesting post – both in the idea they published a book of random digits and your photo of a punch card. I remember writing FORTRAN programs and punching them into cards in 1976 – those were the days.

    Thanks for sharing.

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