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Generating random numbers in C

Assume your range is lower to upper, both of type int.

Choose random number in range

A random integer, uniformly distributed, over that interval is generated with:

int random_number(int lower, int upper) {
    return (rand() % (upper - lower + 1)) + lower;

But in C, the rand() function is deterministic. That means that if you don’t “seed” the random number generator (RNG), then it will return the same sequence every time.

So rand() is not really random, it’s pseudo-random. In order to get different sequences every time you run the program, you have to seed it with something. A common choice is the time.

#include <time.h>
#include <stdlib.h> // rand() is defined here
#include <stdio.h>  // printf() is defined here

Seeding the RNG

To seed the RNG, we take the time and pass it into the srand() function:

int current_time = time(0);

Putting it all together

This document is a literate program, so it can be directly compiled by running lmt on this markdown file.


<<<choose random number in range>>>

int main() {
    int lower = 42;
    int upper = 75;
    <<<seed rng>>>
        "Random number between %d and %d: %d\n",
        random_number(lower, upper)
    return 0;

Running the compiled program in WASM

As a demonstration of WebAssembly, I compiled the rand_int.c output file into a.out.js, and linked it below. If you open up the Chrome console, you will see the output of this program running!