# Unique (non-repeating) random numbers in O(1)

algorithmlanguage-agnosticmathrandom

I'd like to generate unique random numbers between 0 and 1000 that never repeat (i.e. 6 doesn't show up twice), but that doesn't resort to something like an O(N) search of previous values to do it. Is this possible?

#### Best Solution

Initialize an array of 1001 integers with the values 0-1000 and set a variable, max, to the current max index of the array (starting with 1000). Pick a random number, r, between 0 and max, swap the number at the position r with the number at position max and return the number now at position max. Decrement max by 1 and continue. When max is 0, set max back to the size of the array - 1 and start again without the need to reinitialize the array.

Update: Although I came up with this method on my own when I answered the question, after some research I realize this is a modified version of Fisher-Yates known as Durstenfeld-Fisher-Yates or Knuth-Fisher-Yates. Since the description may be a little difficult to follow, I have provided an example below (using 11 elements instead of 1001):

Array starts off with 11 elements initialized to array[n] = n, max starts off at 10:

``````+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 0| 1| 2| 3| 4| 5| 6| 7| 8| 9|10|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
^
max
``````

At each iteration, a random number r is selected between 0 and max, array[r] and array[max] are swapped, the new array[max] is returned, and max is decremented:

``````max = 10, r = 3
+--------------------+
v                    v
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 0| 1| 2|10| 4| 5| 6| 7| 8| 9| 3|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

max = 9, r = 7
+-----+
v     v
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 0| 1| 2|10| 4| 5| 6| 9| 8| 7: 3|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

max = 8, r = 1
+--------------------+
v                    v
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 0| 8| 2|10| 4| 5| 6| 9| 1: 7| 3|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

max = 7, r = 5
+-----+
v     v
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 0| 8| 2|10| 4| 9| 6| 5: 1| 7| 3|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+

...
``````

After 11 iterations, all numbers in the array have been selected, max == 0, and the array elements are shuffled:

``````+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
| 4|10| 8| 6| 2| 0| 9| 5| 1| 7| 3|
+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+
``````

At this point, max can be reset to 10 and the process can continue.