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Communications of the ACM


Qubit Devices Inch Toward Reality

system with laser signal, illustration

Credit: Andrey Suslov

The march toward functional quantum computing devices has taken a long and winding road. Although the concept has been around since the late 1970s, when physicists Paul Benioff, Richard Feynman, and others began to explore quantum information theory, only recently have actual devices begun to take shape. Several companies, including IBM, have developed prototype quantum computing systems, while many research organizations have experimental devices in early stages of development.

Yet unlike classical computing, which has evolved over more than 70 years and is now mature, quantum computing, which harnesses quantum physics to leverage the uncertainty of a quantum state versus the certitude of a classical state, remains largely uncharted territory. An enormous amount of research is currently focused on ways to create or utilize quantum bits ("qubits") to construct quantum mechanical systems that can harness physical events in nature to solve complex computing problems lying outside the practical grasp of classical systems. At the moment, qubit research remains in a relatively nascent state and, as a result, it is not clear which approaches will ultimately prevail.


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