A Brief History Of Quantum Computers

Computers were formerly a tangled mass of wiring, tube, and metal that weighed tons and took up huge rooms long before they were downsized into the MacBooks and PCs that now abound in commercial usage. 

  • They started off as task-specific calculators. 
  • These computers, known as analog computers, range from simple abacuses to more advanced systems that resemble contemporary computers. 
  • They could compute gunfire range, trajectory, and deflection data, as well as automate temperature and pressure flow in factories and aircraft, for example. 

The basic difference between an analog computer and a digital computer is how information is processed. 

  • Analog computers represent information by simulating the issue they are supposed to solve using a physical model. 
  • Analog computers are restricted to single jobs because the issue is built into the machine's architecture. 
  • Digital computers, on the other hand, use symbols to represent quantities and information. 
  • Because symbolic nature is adaptable, it may be reconstructed for various issues on a regular basis. 
  • It's the difference between an abacus, which uses beads and slides to represent numbers, and a smartphone calculator, which crunches numbers as binary values transmitted via a processor chip. 
  • It's the difference between a music record (on which sounds are etched) and a smart phone's music application (where data is encoded as binary values). 
  • It's worth noting that digital computers didn't always outperform their analog predecessors. 
  • Indeed, digital computers are the industry norm today, and they are built from the ground up to have much greater potential than analog computers. 
  • However, analog computers were considered a competitive option to digital computers in many areas, particularly industrial process control, before that potential was fully realized. 

Both technologies were continuously improving, and until digital computers progressed far enough to surpass analog, the technological frontier was built on digital–analog hybrid systems like those used in NASA's Apollo and Space Shuttle projects. 

The digital revolution did not begin until the 1980s, with the development and subsequent mass manufacturing of the silicon transistor and microprocessor. 

It took 25 years to get from pure analog to 100% digital. 

The quest to build the first functioning quantum computer today follows a similar evolutionary path. Adiabatic QCs (or AQC) are the analog counterpart of QCs, with research and development led by a Canadian firm, D-Wave Systems, and the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). 

Computers that, like digital computers today, use logic gates on various qubits to do computations are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Universal QCs are what they're called (or UQC).

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Quantum Computing here.

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