CT: The massive amount of processing power generated by computer manufacturers has not yet been able to quench our thirst for speed and computing capacity. In 1947, American computer engineer Howard Aiken said that just six electronic digital computers would satisfy the computing needs of the United States. Others have made similar errant predictions about the amount of computing power that would support our growing technological needs. Of course, Aiken didn’t count on the large amounts of data generated by scientific research, the proliferation of personal computers or the emergence of the Internet, which have only fueled our need for more, more and more computing power.
Will we ever have the amount of computing power we need or want? If, as Moore’s Law states, the number of transistors on a microprocessor continues to double every 18 months, the year 2020 or 2030 will find the circuits on a microprocessor measured on an atomic scale. And the logical next step will be to create quantum computers, which will harness the power of atoms and molecules to perform memory and processing tasks. Quantum computers have the potential to perform certain calculations significantly faster than any silicon-based computer.
Scientists have already built basic quantum computers that can perform certain calculations; but a practical quantum computer is still years away.
S: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer.htm (last access: 21 December 2014)
N: 1. quantum (n): 1610s, “one’s share or portion,” from Latin quantum (plural quanta) “as much as, so much as; how much? how far? how great an extent?” neuter singular of correlative pronomial adjective quantus “as much”. Introduced in physics directly from Latin by Max Planck, 1900; reinforced by Einstein, 1905. Quantum theory is from 1912; quantum mechanics, 1922; quantum jump is first recorded 1954; quantum leap, 1963, often figurative.
computer (n): 1640s, “one who calculates,” agent noun from compute (v.). Meaning “calculating machine” (of any type) is from 1897; in modern use, “programmable digital electronic computer” (1945 under this name; theoretical from 1937, as Turing machine). ENIAC (1946) usually is considered the first. Computer literacy is recorded from 1970; an attempt to establish computerate (adjective, on model of literate) in this sense in the early 1980s didn’t catch on. Computerese “the jargon of programmers” is from 1960, as are computerize and computerization.
2. You don’t have to go back too far to find the origins of quantum computing. While computers have been around for the majority of the 20th century, quantum computing was first theorized less than 30 years ago, by a physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory. Paul Benioff is credited with first applying quantum theory to computers in 1981. Benioff theorized about creating a quantum Turing machine.
3. A quantum computer is a computer design which uses the principles of quantum physics to increase the computational power beyond what is attainable by a traditional computer. Quantum computers have been built on the small scale and work continues to upgrade them to more practical models.
4. A quantum computer usually gives a variable result which has to be corrected by a final, classical calculation. Lots of quantum computers would produce lots of different answers. However, a quantum computer can do the corrective calculation too; in fact, it turns out, it can do the calculation on itself.
5. Cultural Interrelation: Originally released in February 2004 in one theater in Yelm, Washington, What the BLEEP Do We Know!? went on to become the fifth highest grossing documentary in the United States.
S: 1. OED – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=quantum&searchmode=none; http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=computer&searchmode=none (last access: 21 December 2014). 2. http://computer.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer.htm (last access: 21 December 2014) (last access: 21 December 2014). 3. http://physics.about.com/od/quantumphysics/f/quantumcomp.htm (last access: 21 December 2014). 4. TERMIUMPLUS. 5. http://www.whatthebleep.com/ (last access: 31 March 2015).