RAND Corporation
A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates
1955
book, 1st edition
10.8 x 7.8 x 3”  / 27.4 x 19.8 x 7.6 cm

In the late forties, researchers at the RAND think tank developed a need for large sets of random numbers to test experimental models in a range of fields—financial markets, aerospace, geopolitics. In order to satisfy this need, RAND built a computer that could convert the pseudo-random radioactive decay of an atom into digital tables, which were originally “stored” in binary on IBM punch-cards. Later, they were printed in numerical form as a book for use by mathematicians and statisticians (1955, Free Press).

The history of this improbable “book” is filled with a number of challenges to the medium’s definition: though random samples were tested from its tables prior to publication, to this day, the entire volume has never been proofread. At first, even the New York Public Library was unable to determine the book’s meaning, and apparently confused by the second half of the title, Normal Deviates. They originally filed the book under “Psychology”.