An introduction to quantum computing

Cat's Dilemma

Article from Issue 265/2022

The peculiar world of quantum mechanics points the way to a whole new kind of computer. If you're wondering how quantum computers work, we'll give you an inside view.

Quantum computing is a phenomenon that is so close to the edge, it feels like science fiction. The concepts have been around for many years. In 1980, physicist Paul Benioff described a Turing machine built to inhabit the mysterious realm of quantum mechanics. A few years later, Nobel laureate (and American physics icon) Richard Feynman, along with Russian mathematician Yuri Manin, first suggested that a quantum computer could do things that you can't do with an ordinary computer. Mathematicians and computer scientists were intrigued, and since then, they have been busily working ahead on theoretical quantum algorithms for which no suitable hardware yet exists. But the hardware vendors have been busy too, taking on the challenge of designing the quantum logic gates necessary to hold and manipulate entangled photons – at temperatures close to absolute zero. The first 2-qubit experimental quantum computer appeared in 1998, and over the past few years, billions of venture capital dollars have poured into quantum computing startups, while big companies like Google and IBM have built their own teams of quantum physicists to stake a claim on the emerging market.

Working quantum computers exist today, although they are very small scale and experimental, and they still aren't efficient enough to outperform conventional computers. But new breakthroughs occur every year, and many experts believe the age of the quantum computer is not far away. In fact, several vendors offer access to quantum computers via cloud services right now. This article introduces you to some of the principles of quantum computing – and explains why this new technology could have such a powerful effect on our future.

The Basics

The basis of quantum computing is the quantum bit (or qubit), which is both a physical component and a logical unit of information. As you already know, a classic bit can only assume the values 0 or 1. If you access and read a qubit, you also get a value of 0 or 1. Before the reading, however, a fundamentally different situation exists with a quantum bit. Because of a quantum mechanical property known as superposition, additional values between 0 and 1 are possible, leading to computational efficiencies that are not possible with conventional computers.


Use Express-Checkout link below to read the full article (PDF).

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Qiskit

    Qiskit is an open source framework that aims to make quantum computing technology both understandable and ready for production.

  • Quantum Computing and Encryption

    The encryption methods we use today are no match for tomorrow's quantum computers. We'll show you why and what's ahead for cryptography in the post-quantum era.

  • Google and NASA Partner in Quantum Computing Project

    Vendor D-Wave scores big with a sale to NASA's Quantum Intelligence Lab.

  • FOSSPicks

    Like tardy London buses, Graham has waited months for a decent open source instant messenger client to arrive, and then in this month's FOSSPicks, he found two. Perfect for staying in touch with friends and family from the comfort of your own sofa.

  • Program Library for Quantum Simulation Leaps to Version 0.9.1

    If you'll pardon the pun, the Libquantum C library has now leaped from version 0.2.4 to 0.9.1 after three years of seeming inactivity. The new version includes a new API which gives users the ability to simulate quantum mechanics.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you've found an article to be beneficial.