Taste the future -- try out a cloud-based quantum computer

A taste of the future of computing is available from the Physics department of the University of Bristol. The limits of traditional computers are being reached and new technology is needed if things are going to develop at any sort of reasonable pace in the coming years. Quantum computing could just be the way ahead, and the UK university has produced Qcloud, an online quantum computer that you can play with for free.

Mere binary is too limiting, but a quantum computer is not restricted to working with 1s and 0s. Rather than the two states associated with a regular bit, a quantum bit (or qubit -- not to be confused with the Brighton Rock character, Cubitt) is capable of being in multiple states simultaneously. Forget "on" and "off", each qubit can be used to hold multiple pieces of data at the same time.

It is likely that quantum computing will prove pivotal in the development of computing, and if you fancy the idea of trying out such a machine, you can do so with the online simulator. Before you get too excited, quantum computing is still very much in its infancy -- what's being done here is technically very impressive, but at the moment it's not going to enable you to play Grand Theft Auto.

The University of Bristol does have a real -- albeit relatively simple -- quantum computer, whose processor will be available for use from 20 September. But before you fire off your registration, it's a good idea to dabble with the simulator to get a feel for how things work.

It's a bit of a step up from coding Basic or tinkering with Powershell, but who knows where it might lead. With two weeks to go until the real processor is made available, try out the simulator first and get your head around the notion of working with qubits and measuring superposition and entanglement.

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