The history of quantum computing dates back to the 80s and the study still continues today
The spark about quantum computing is considered to have set out from a three-day discussion at the MIT Conference Center out of Boston, in 1981. The meeting, ‘The Physics of Computation’, was collaboratively sponsored by IBM and MIT’s Laboratory of computer science. The discussion aimed to formulate new processes for efficient ways of computing and bring the area of study into the mainstream. Quantum computing was not a popularly discussed field of science till then. The historic conference was presided over by many talented brains including Richard Feynman, Paul Benioff, Edward Fredkin, Leonid Levin, Freeman Dyson, and Arthur Burks, who were computer scientists and physicists.
Richard Feynman was a renowned theoretical physicist who received a Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1965 with other two physicists, for his contributions towards the development of quantum electrodynamics. The conference was a seminal moment in the development of quantum computing and Richard Feynman announced that to simulate quantum computation, there is a need for quantum computers. Later, he went on to publish a paper in 1982, titled ‘Simulating Physics with Computers.’The area of study soon got attention from computer scientists and physicists. Hence, the work on quantum computing began.
Before this, in 1980, Paul Benioff had described a first quantum mechanical model of a computer in one of his papers, which had already acted as a foundation for the study. After Feynman’s statement in the conference, Paul Benioff went on to develop his model of quantum mechanical Turing machine.
However, almost a decade later, came Shor’s algorithm, developed by Peter Shor, which is considered a milestone in the history of quantum computing. This algorithm allowed quantum computers to factor large integers at a higher speed and could also break numerous cryptosystems. The discovery garnered a lot of interest in the study of quantum computing as it replaced the years taken by the classic, traditional computing algorithms to perform factoring by just some hours. Later, in 1996, Lov Grover invented the quantum database search algorithm, which exhibited a quadratic speedup that could solve any problem that had to be solved by random brute-force search and could also be applied to a wider base of problems.
The year 1998 witnessed the first experimental demonstration of a quantum algorithm that worked on a 2-qubit NMR quantum computer. Later in the year, a working 3-qubit NMR computer was developed and Grover’s algorithm got executed for the first time in an NMR quantum computer. Several experimental progress took place between 1999 and 2009.
In 2009, the first universal programmable quantum computer was unveiled by a team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Colorado. The computer was capable of processing 2 quantum bits.
After almost a decade, IBM unveiled the first commercially usable integrated quantum computing system, and later in the year, IBM added 4 more quantum computing systems, along with a newly developed 53-qubit quantum computer. Google also gave a huge contribution to the field in late 2019, when a paper published by the Google research team claimed to have reached quantum supremacy. The 54-qubit Sycamore processor, made of tiny qubits and superconducting materials is claimed to have sampled a computation in just 200 seconds. Last year, IonQ launched its trapped ion quantum computers and made them commercially available through the cloud. There have been several experiments and research that are being carried on today. Each day becomes a new step for quantum computing technology since its proclamation back in the 80s.
According to a report by Fast Company, IBM plans to complete the 127-qubit IBM Quantum Eagle this year and expects to develop a 1000-qubit computing machine called the IBM Quantum Condor by 2023. IBM has been keeping up in the path of developing the best quantum computing solutions since it hosted the conference in 1981. Charlie Bennet, a renowned physicist who was part of the conference as IBM’s research contingent, has a huge contribution to these innovations put forward by the company.
The emerging era of quantum computing will invite many breakthroughs. The quantum computing revolution will increase processing efficiency and solve intrinsic quantum problems. Quantum computer works with quantum bits or qubits that can be in the ‘superposition of states that will cater to massive calculations at an extremely faster pace.
Quantum computing will have a greater impact on almost all industries and business operations. It is capable of molecular modeling, cryptography, weather forecasting, drug discovery, and more. Quantum computing is also said to be a significant component of artificial intelligence, which is fuelling several businesses and real-life functions today. We might soon reach the state of quantum supremacy and businesses need to become quantum-ready by then.
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