It might surprise you that the history of computers goes back over 200 years. There have been many advancements since that time, including the introduction of the initial programming language in 1954, the first computer chip in 1958, the original DRAM chip in 1970, and the Pentium microprocessor in 1993.
Nearly every computer on the planet is programmed using binary code, a series of “1s” and “0s” that store information and allow the device to work. The use of binary code could be changing, though, thanks to the revolutionary quantum computers that scientists are now working on.
It seems to be a question of when, rather than if, quantum computers will eventually become the norm when purchasing a computer, so learning about them is highly recommended.
To understand quantum computers, it’s a good idea to look at what we have now and compare them to standard computers. Here’s a look at the past and how it relates to the future of computing.
The original computers
The world of computing has come a long way over the past 200 years, as modern advancements make today’s computers unrecognizable from their predecessors.
In 1801, a French merchant named Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a loom that used wooded cards to weave a design in a piece of fabric automatically. By 1821, there was a steam-driven calculator, and in 1848, the first computer program was introduced.
Jumping ahead, the first 64-bit processor, the AMD Athlon 64, was released in 2003. Computers seem to be getting faster and more powerful every year.
How binary code works
The main limitation of modern computing is the system that drives it: binary code.
Binary code is a two-symbol system that uses the numbers “0” and “1”. The code assigns a pattern of digits, known as bits, to each character or instruction the computer uses.
For instance, each letter of the words you’re reading was written via binary code instructions. These instructions tell the computer which letter will appear when the writer presses a specific key on the keyboard.
An eight-bit binary string can produce 256 different values, and that number is exponentially greater in the 64-bit systems we often see today.
The most revolutionary technology on the market is Apple’s M1 Ultra chip. This system-on-a-chip integrates the CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD controller, encode and decode engines, secure enclave, image signal processor, and neural engine in a single location.
This chip is an incredible engineering feat because it features 114 billion transistors, each of which can represent either the “0” or “1” in a binary code at any given time. The first transistorized computer, built in 1954, had fewer than 800 transistors, so you can see just how powerful the M1 Ultra chip is compared to past computers.
It’s still a binary code chip, though, which limits what computers running it can accomplish.
Why quantum computers are different
The main difference between traditional computing and quantum computing is that quantum computers process information using qubits, which can represent both “0” and “1” at the same time.
How is that possible?
The gist is that a quantum computer uses a superposition, where some subatomic particles aren’t defined until they’re measured. Basically, the computer can hold both positions until it knows the answer.
These computers get even more powerful as you add additional qubits. While a traditional computer’s processing power delivers linear increases as designers add transistors, a quantum computer’s processing power increases exponentially with each additional qubit.
Therefore, the sky’s the limit for quantum computers’ computing power, as space is no longer a concern.
What does this mean for computing?
Right now, these advancements in quantum computing don’t mean much because they remain a work in progress. Theoretically, though, quantum computers could have the power to solve some of life’s greatest mysteries like the fundamental nature of reality.
However, we’re far more likely to see these computers used practically once they’re available, as they can solve logistical problems, enhance weather forecasts, and discover delivery routes using information traditional computers can’t process.
Buying a quantum computer
Estimates suggest quantum computers won’t be available for purchase until at least 2030, and it could take until 2040 for them to become the standard. Still, it’s exciting to think about what the future could hold as computers reach levels never thought possible.
Are you excited about what the quantum computer means for the future of information? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and don’t forget to share this post with the techie in your life.