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17.2 The Random Number Generator Interface

It is important to remember that a random number generator is not a “real” function like sine or cosine. Unlike real functions, successive calls to a random number generator yield different return values. Of course that is just what you want for a random number generator, but to achieve this effect, the generator must keep track of some kind of “state” variable. Sometimes this state is just an integer (sometimes just the value of the previously generated random number), but often it is more complicated than that and may involve a whole array of numbers, possibly with some indices thrown in. To use the random number generators, you do not need to know the details of what comprises the state, and besides that varies from algorithm to algorithm.

The random number generator library uses two special structs, gsl_rng_type which holds static information about each type of generator and gsl_rng which describes an instance of a generator created from a given gsl_rng_type.

The functions described in this section are declared in the header file ‘gsl_rng.h’.