ERNIE was designed and built in the Research Branch of the Engineer - in - Chief's Office of the Post Office and was installed at Lytham St. Annes by staff of the Preston Telephone Area.

Photo: ERNIE Mk I at Lytham St. Annes. The control desk includes an 8-day clock and a 700 series telephone, circa 1960.
| EXIT | ERNIE 1 | ERNIE 2 | ERNIE 3 | ERNIE 4 | ERNIE in Detail | Acknowledgements |

ERNIE mark 1 produced winning bond numbers between 1957 and 1973. It could generate numbers for bonds up to nine digits in length.

The Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment, better known as ERNIE was commissioned to select prize winners of Premium Savings Bonds. The initial concept of the machine was devised by Mr S.W. Broadhurst and Premium Bonds were officially launched on 1 November 1956 by Harold Macmillan, Chancellor of the Exchequer. The first draw took place on 2 June 1957 and the top prize was £1000.

Dr Charles Hill, the Postmaster General was interviewed on 26th July 1956 by ITN's Lynne Reid Banks on the mid-evening news as he announced the government scheme to raise money in return for monthly prizes.

ERNIE in Detail
ERNIE in Detail
ERNIE Mk 1 (rear view) shown with the five equipment panels open or removed.

Photo: An engineer checks one of the circuit boards of ERNIE Mk 1.
Processing Prizes
Processing Prizes
When your number was up 1960s style...

Photocopies of the bond certificates were filed in numerical order by denominations, presumably with name and address details of the registered holder. The winning numbers generated by ERNIE were output onto teleprinters, which were situated close to the files. A manual search was then made within these files for the corresponding bond(s) which matched the printed messages. The photocopies were extracted and assembled centrally for confirmation of eligibility and subsequent processing to determine the prize winners.

Photo: Processing prizes at Blackpool in the 1960s.

Disclaimer: These pages are an unofficial review of ERNIE and Premium Bonds. Photos copyright Light Straw Archives, as marked. Other photos and images used with kind permission of National Savings and Investments (NS & I). With thanks to the Science Museum, NS & I, and BT Heritage.

If you have a query about money or bonds held in National Savings, please visit the National Savings and Investments site. 

Design, images and text compiled by © Light-Straw. Page last updated June 2015 revision.

All logos and trade marks are the property of their respective owners and are used on the Light Straw site(s) for review only. Students and researchers are recommended to make their own independent enquiries as to the accuracy of the information contained therein.