[SIGCIS-Members] Ernie goes Quantum

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Tue Mar 5 07:14:06 PST 2019

Ernie goes Quantum

Thanks, Brian, for that post about Ernie. I suppose the US counterpart might be the 1955 RAND Corporation book, _A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates_. A book that I used in graduate school for a research paper in sociology. The reviews section of the Amazon.com listing for the book have interesting comments, although the jokes get tired quickly. RAND used cosmic rays to generate the numbers, although they had trouble with an early iteration of the table, which produced digits that were not random "enough."

"Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random numbers is, of course, in a state of sin." -- John von Neumann, at a 1949 conference on Monte Carlo methods.

I have a paper coming out this spring that goes into some detail about this, in Tom Haigh, ed. _Exploring the Early Digital_. <https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783030021511>.


Paul Ceruzzi
Curator Emeritus
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20013-7012

-----Original Message-----

Message: 2
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2019 15:51:14 +0000
From: Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk>
To: "members at sigcis.org" <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Ernie goes quantum
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Here?s an article in The Register about the new generation ?Ernie?:

?. . .For computing history nerds, the names Tommy Flowers and Harry Fensom likely conjure up images of the code-breaking Colossus. But after the war, they also had a hand in creating a dearly loved, much-anthropomorphised, millionaire-making machine: ERNIE.

ERNIE ? Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment ? is the machine used to crank out millions of random numbers when the Post Office, and now NS&I, selects the winning Premium Bonds each month.

He has been immortalised in songs by Madness and Jethro Tull, and even gets Christmas and Valentine's cards from punters that are most likely recipients of one of the 420 million prizes, worth ?19.1bn, handed out since the scheme was launched in 1957. . ..?

Full story and pictures at https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/03/01/ernie_quantum_el_reg/


Brian Randell

School of Computing, Newcastle University, 1 Science Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5TG
EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk   PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
URL = http://www.ncl.ac.uk/computing/people/profile/brianrandell.html

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