Quantum Computing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to the Mind-Bending New Technology
Have you heard the term "quantum computing" thrown around thousands of times over the years, without having a clue what it means? Fear not. You are in good company.
Classical or traditional computing architecture processes data and calculations that occur in a binary state, aka "bits" or values of 1s and 0s, to make decisions about the data it's processing. It's sort of like a light switch, which can only exist as off or on.
Classical computing is what modern technology is built on. While it has served us well, it definitely has limitations for tasks that require processing a massive amount of data. As modern technology evolves, it will generate richer data sets that require additional computing power in the same way that an autonomous car connected to a 5G cellular network that's sharing data with your new iPhone xiiv will require much more processing power than an N64.
Quantum computing is what comes next to address the future of rich data, computing-hungry technology when classical computing fails. Unlike classical computing architecture, quantum computing processing occurs simultaneously in multiple states. Instead of bits, a quantum computer has a sequence of quantum bits or qubits, which can be 1 or 0 or any combination of values in between, existing at the same time – which in turn means they can store a massive amount of information while using less energy. The point being, quantum computing is more powerful and capable of processing far more data and complex calculations.
So why is it taking so long for us to get quantum computing tech? Well, that's a slightly more complex explanation, because the traditional laws of physics don't apply at the quantum level. The unpredictability of qubits means we're still performing lots of simulations and experiments to determine how to write software for quantum computers. And once we start to figure that out, scientific communities get to start working on actually making it functional in useful ways.