Random Number Generators: What They Are and How They’re Used

Most people don’t give too much thought to the processes that make modern life possible, but they’re there — and our lives would be poorer if they weren’t.

One of the more underrated, under-discussed champions of the digital world is the humble Random Number Generator, which has a wide range of applications and plays a vital role in password security, gaming, and scientific studies, among other uses.

Let’s take a closer look at random number generators, including what they are and how they’re used.

Random Number Generators

Understanding Random Number Generators

Random number generators, as a concept, have existed for centuries. If you’ve ever rolled a dice or shuffled a deck of cards, then you’ve used random number generator mechanisms.

The digital age has just as many requirements for random numbers, if not more, but the precise nature of computer programs means that inserting unpredictability involves more than flipping a coin.

Enter Random Number Generators (RNGs). These are inserted via programming, allowing for a de facto random experience.

It’s important to note that, in many cases, the numbers aren’t truly random, because you could figure them out if you had all the seed values, but that’s rarely a factor.

RNGs can also include set limitations, depending on the use. For example, while Spotify’s shuffle feature may seem random, it’s not really — the code will prevent the same track from playing multiple times in a row.

Common Applications of Random Number Generators

Unless you’re a developer, you’ll be unlikely to come up against random number generators directly, since they work their magic behind the scenes.

But you will come across them indirectly; after all, they underpin plenty of modern software. Let’s take a look at some of the most common applications of RNGs.


Random number generators have played an important role in cryptography for a long, long time — in Ancient Rome, leaders would encode military messages using random numbers.

It was nowhere near as advanced as today, since you had a one in twenty-six chance of cracking the code, but it was still highly effective.

Anyway, back to today. Random number generators are used to authenticate passwords. When you submit your credentials to a website, the site owner doesn’t see what your password is.

What they see is a randomly generated number which stands as an authentication method. Random number generators are also used extensively in the cryptocurrency field, most notably encryption keys.

Random Number Generator

Online Gaming

There’s been a huge shift towards digital gaming in recent years, and that’s in large part thanks to RNGs, especially in the online casino industry.

Consumers may have always preferred the convenience of online casinos over traditional casinos, but many harbored doubts about whether online offerings were as random as what they’d find in the real world. Random number generators resolved that issue.

In games like roulette, it’s not just the layout of the table that is the same in online casinos as real-world casinos; the probability that it’ll land on any given number is the same, too. It’s RNGs that dictate that players have the same chance of winning.

Traditional Gaming

It isn’t only casino gaming that uses RNGs — traditional games do, too. It’s random number generators that dictate what happens following an event. That’s why you get different outcomes even though you appear to have performed an identical move.

Scientific Studies

The impact of RNGs stretches beyond digital experiences. Scientists are increasingly using random number generators in their probability samples, helping to gain a clearer understanding of society. Elsewhere, mathematicians use RNGs in the management of non-probabilistic equations.

In Conclusion

Coming up with a random number might seem like easy work, but it becomes much more challenging when you need to create a random number again and again, forever and forever.

Computers, by nature, are not random. They’re precise and work on set expectations. It’s thanks to random number generator software that developers can add a level of unpredictability to their creations.

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