Although ERNIE 4 is the size of a Personal Computer, the staging is every bit as grand as in previous decades.

Photo: ERNIE Mk 4 courtesy of NS & I.
| EXIT | ERNIE 1 | ERNIE 2 | ERNIE 3 | ERNIE 4 | Acknowledgements |

ERNIE 4 was developed to speed up the prize draw process and to cater for 11-digit bond numbers. It has been used for prize draws from 1st April 2004 to date.

NS&I spokesman, Mark Brooks, said: "We have sold so many Premium Bonds, we needed a new machine that could generate 11-digit numbers for the first time."

A press release from NS & I explains the launch of ERNIE 4...


Premium Bond growth necessitates ERNIE upgrade

"National Savings and Investments (NS&I) today launched ERNIE 4 (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) at the Science Museum, London, bringing all four generations of ERNIE together for the first time. The fourth generation random number generator is responsible for selecting prize winning Premium Bonds each month. The next draw in September will see ERNIE 4 give away 1 million prizes - more than ever before - hence the need for a more powerful ERNIE.

In the last 10 years, Premium Bonds have gone from strength to strength. Currently, 25 billion Premium Bonds are owned by 23 million people nationwide. The launch of ERNIE 4 saw all four generations of ERNIE brought together side by side, including ERNIE 1, built in 1956 by the team behind the World War 2 code-breaker Colossus. The exhibition at the Science Museum shows how NS&I, the British institution behind Premium Bonds, has supported the development of smaller and faster technology over the last 50 years. The launch event was hosted by science and mathematics personality, Johnny Ball, and attended by the engineers who designed and built ERNIE 1 almost 50 years ago, as well as those responsible for developing ERNIE 4, from LogicaCMG.

Over the years, the notoriously difficult process of generating random numbers has changed significantly, while each of the ERNIEs has got progressively smaller and faster as technology has advanced. ERNIE 1 was 24 sq ft and used gas to generate the numbers, whereas ERNIE 4 uses thermal noise generated by a chip and measuring 0.01 sq ft, requires considerably less space. John Prout, sales director at National Savings and Investments said, ERNIE 4 is the power behind Premium Bonds - able to generate more numbers, more quickly than ever before."


ERNIE - The power behind Premium Bonds
Ernie - The power behind Premium Bonds. An Ernie tee shirt shown with ERNIE Mark I in the background.

Photo courtesy of NS & I.
ERNIE 4 motherboard
With microchips and a printed circuit board, ERNIE 4 is contained on a single motherboard and is no larger than an ordinary Personal Computer.

Photo courtesy of NS & I.
Johnny Ball with ERNIE 1 and 4
To demonstrate how electronics have developed over the preceeding 45 years, Johnny (Think of a Number*) Ball holds up Ernie 4 in front of Ernie 1.

*In the 1970s and 80s, Johnny Ball wrote and presented 23 solo television series including ‘Think of a Number’, ‘Think Again’ and ‘Johnny Ball Reveals All'.

Photo courtesy of NS & I.
Johnny Ball points to the ERNIE 4 chipset
With microchips and a printed circuit board, ERNIE 4 is contained on a single motherboard and is no larger than an ordinary Personal Computer.

Photo courtesy of NS & I.

ERNIE 4  Launch
ERNIE 4 Launch
The launch of ERNIE 4 was celebrated at the Science Museum with Johnny Ball by a special one-off exhibition of all four ERNIES.

Photo courtesy of NS & I.

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.

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