The Evolution of Random Number Generator Technology



Since ancient times, random number generator technology has been changing the way we make decisions across a number of mediums, from computer simulation to gaming. While today’s technology can give us unlimited access to a huge database of numbers, it has not always been quite so elaborate – here’s a look back at how random number generator technology has developed.

Rolling the Dice

Before the advent of computer technology, we would have to rely on far less complicated methods to guarantee complete randomness. It’s estimated that die have been used in gaming for more than 5,000 years, when their first recorded use was noted as a backgammon game in the Burnt City archaeological site in south-eastern Iran. The die has transcended through history and has many biblical references, including “casting lots” in Psalm 22. Today, they’re more commonly found in children’s board games, but their principle has remained constant.

Coin Flipping

Dating back to Roman times, this form of random number generator technology has far fewer outcomes, though users can implement other methods to make it more interesting, such as “two out of three” methods. This has often been used in calling sports games, and was particularly interesting during the Philadephia Eagles versus Detroit Lions in December 2013, when the coin landed on its side due to a snowstorm.

I Ching yarrow stalks

Another ancient method of random number generator technology was the I Ching, or Classic Book of Changes, method, which traces back to 2 or 3,000 BCE. It is still widely used today and involves a divination system using yarrow stalks and hexagrams to predict results. The practice has evolved enormously over the course of history, with both a “traditional” and “modernist” (used in the last 50 years) now coming into play today.

Computer-driven Random Number Generator Technology

Today, with the advent of computer technology, there are more options than ever to generate random numbers, something which has proved highly beneficial to the advent of the slot machine and other casino games, online and offline. The random number generator of today begins its process with a “seed number”, which uses an algorithm to calculate a new, random number based on the seed. The next number then becomes the seed and effectively sets off a completely random process, which is now commonly used in today’s slot machines. But while many random number generators use numbers with up to 220,000 digits, slot machines are far less complicated, with up to 12 options, so there is far more chance of the player winning.

Image credit: CC by Janet Ramsden


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