ERNIE, the premium bonds computer that people used to talk about in the olden days when computers were still thought to be exciting, is being upgraded. We're now on to ERNIE hardware version 5, thanks to the monthly task of having to process 79bn premium bonds and their unique numbers growing too onerous for the early-2000s tech of the model it replaces.
Premium bonds administrator NS&I says ERNIE 5 uses "quantum technology" from Swiss hardware and crypto specialist ID Quantique to sort the billions of serial numbers now, with the process of picking 3 million winning bond numbers reduced to just a 12 minute number crunch by a processor housed entirely on one tiny chip. The last-gen ERNIE 4 was getting on a bit and took nine hours to come up with the winners, with the newest Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment some 45 times faster at producing the goods. Hopefully it's put to good use analysing data for SETI or hosting a Quake III server over the rest of the month.
ERNIE 4 is off to enjoy a gentle retirement at the old computer's home at the Bletchley Park National Museum of Computing. It'll do the numbers for the Friday night bingo or something less tiring. [BBC]