Random Number Generators

                   RNG & PRNG


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The Random Number Generator and the Fate of Luck


A random number generator or RNG is a device, either physical or computational that has been designed to create sequences of numbers that appear random. There are many applications requiring the creation of random numbers including, computer security systems, forecasting and of course online Gambling.

Physical methods for selecting random sequences have been used for centuries, from its simplest form of tossing a coin to represent two possible outcomes to modern day lottery machines, drawing from a wider random number selection.



Other random generators link to physical states such as temperature, noise, wind, or a combination thereof. Many of the older generation will remember the rumour that circulated in the 70’s regarding the way in which slot machines seemed to pay out once they were fully warmed up. In fact there was certainly something to this, though it was not a simple case of the ‘hotter the better’.

The above methods of physical random number selection required a lot of work, especially if ever to be used on a grand scale. These issues have been reasonably resolved with the introduction of computational random generators which can be linked to physical factors such as time and noise or they can be 100% computational in the form of Pseudo-random number generators or PRNGs which are algorithms that can create massive sequences of supposed random numbers. I say ‘supposed random’ numbers because as the ‘pseudo’ name suggests this method is anything but truly random!! It is also an area of great interest to me in that having spent many years involved in problem solving I am very aware that something fake or imitation like this is often far easier to see through and resolve, than something that may be real.




Number Generators


Before we can start  the pseudo-random number generator it will require an initial value or random seed number first. The random seed is all important as it is this number to which the chosen random generator algorithm will be applied. If security or the pre-determination of the resulting numbers are intended to be unknown, as in the case of online gambling, then the random seed must be secret. When a player knows both the random seed number and the algorithm being applied then he/she could fairly easily tell you the next number in roulette or may be the next playing card.!!

The key point is that these algorithms may have an incredibly large cycle but it is still all pre-determined and can be known by those who set the seed number or otherwise by anyone with a powerful enough and smart enough computer and program to locate the precise point within a particular cycle of any one particular random seed. When the computer locates the correct position it would then be able to predict the next number. Some say that this will happen with the coming of quantum computers, though I still believe it can be done now, based on the fact that we can always input theoretical seed numbers, wait for the match, then confirm the match within minutes and finally just go with the flow !!




The Random Seed Number


To initialize the random number selection a seed number or ‘first value’ is entered from where the algorithm will take over and generate numbers in the desired format, depending on the type of application. Naturally there also needs to be a device for selecting a seed, and number randomly too. This is an another interesting area because the choices of how this is done may be unlimited but many of them relate to time, dates etc and that would be defeating the object of randomness before we have even started. This is not as straightforward as it may first appear but is perhaps another opening for possible opportunities for those interested in cracking the system!

Predicting the random seed number from nothing is virtually impossible but determining the process for seed selection would certainly open doors.





Electronic Random Number

Indicator Equipment


ERNIE was introduced in 1957 to draw UK premium Bond Winners in a random manner. There have been 4 versions over the years and they say that if the first version was still operating today it would require 52 days to compute the full results of each draw.

ERNIE is an enigma to me in that it is claimed that it cannot be programmed, and because of that the number produced cannot be predetermined.

Since we know that random generator algorithms require the input of a seed number and because we know the results are pre-determinable this would suggest that ERNIE is not a Pseudo random number generator.

I am not suggesting that this can be taken advantage or anything but as a curiosity point I had always earlier thought that it was one of the very earliest PRNG based system, and to be frank I am still not sure.



The Mersenne Twister


The Mersenne Twister is probably both the best known and most used Pseudo-random number generator algorithm in the world of online gambling. The Mersenne Twister was developed in Japan in 1997 by Makoto Matsumoto and Takuji Nishimura.

There are two versions, each creating a different sequence and known as the MT 19937 and the MT19937-64. The first was proven to have a period of 19937  which is an almost unimaginable size. Try to Imagine 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 and doing that 19937 times and you get an idea of how many possible outcomes this algorithm can create. Bear in mind that however big this number is, it still doubled in size on the 19938th time.

A Google is the largest number with its own name and is a 1 followed by 100 zeros. If there is an expert out there, I would be very interested to know how many Googles would represent the size of the Mersenne Twister period. And whilst on the subject, might I comment on what great names were chosen for such a huge search engine and a gigantic twisting algorithm using a Mersenne prime.

Like other pseudo-random generators the Mersenne Twister will require a random seed number to start the process. Online roulette players should not be fooled by the first number on the roulette number board as this is not the random seed number as it will be quietly somewhere else and probably under lock and key.  There is more information about the implementation and interpretation of the Mersenne Twister in my notes about Online Gambling.

Physical Random Number Generators


As we said, sometimes the random number selection process will relate to a so called random physical event in nature. In fact one of the most obvious examples of this would be to link the random number generation to time itself. This is frequently used in many areas of random number generation, perhaps even using the computer’s clock. When it comes to generating secure pseudo - randomness it would be fairly risky to use time as the primary source for generating random numbers as this can be tracked and therefore another area of great personal interest in terms of the extent to which this happens with online gambling.

It may not happen anymore but not that long ago there were a some roulette machines inside betting shops and when you pressed the start button on each machine at exactly the same moment one would get the same number result. This was fairly interesting though couldn’t be used to predict anything but it demonstrated more clearly to me than anything else that the generator in this situation had to be in some ways linked to time.

Perlin Noise

Noise is another supposedly random physical feature in nature that can also be linked to random number generation. Perlin Noise was one such example, developed by Ken Perlin, and most frequently used in the generation of computer graphics and animation. It’s not a case of normal everyday noise, as that of course would be subjected to environmental change and of no use at all.

Radio sound is most commonly used, as indeed it is at random.org  a website that offers huge random number generation for free. I’m no scientist but when I think of radio waves and just the use of noise generally, I have this feeling urging me to explore further in the hope that perhaps the precise type of noise being used might have some sort of quantifiable variation, pattern or bias.

Having read this brief description you may well find you have more questions than answers and that’s the problem, so do I. On the surface of it, with numbers coming out in a pseudo fashion, on a pre-determined course and with numbers being created by physical events that may well have as yet unknown pattern properties, it’s easy to see why one might be interested and indeed I have written up separately some of my own interpretations of this in relation to Online Roulette & Online Gambling in general.


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Keywords relating to this roulette article;  Random,  Randomness, Psuedo random Algorithms Mersenne Twister

Seed Number


Copyright 2011 Jafco. All rights reserved.