ERNIE - Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment
'ERNIE' is the name of the computer used in the UK to generate the winning numbers in the monthly premium bonds lottery. ERNIE entered service on 2nd June, 1957 when he randomly generated the 9-digit number sequence of the first winning premium bond.
ERNIE was used to ensure complete fairness in number selection. The underlying principal of random number generation used in the original ERNIE was the random frequency instability of a free-running oscillator. Another reason that ERNIE was used was to add an element of interest and technological sophistication, (remember, it was the fifties), to an otherwise fairly straightforward procedure. ERNIE got the British public interested in the premium bond scheme, (compare with the list of past and present presenters of the National Lottery TV show).
The original ERNIE took 10 days to complete the first list of winning numbers.
ERNIE was upgraded in 1973 because his workload was increasing, (the size of the list of winning bond numbers increases in proportion to the number of premium bonds in circulation) . The current ERNIE, introduced in 1988, is the Mark 3 version. ERNIE (III) takes six hours to randomly generate a complete list of winning numbers.
ERNIE's impartiality continues to be verified monthly by GAD, (the Government Actuary's Department).