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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Build a quantum computer from free plans

3 February 2017

Apparently, quantum computers will leave traditional computers in its dust.

If you believe all the hype, a decent sized quantum computer will change so many aspects of our technology and our understanding of the universe that we could see a whole new "age" of mankind created as a result.

Of course our ability to design and fabricate practical quantum computers has been incredibly limited to date and even the most sophisticated and expensive examples are dealing with only a disappointingly low number of qbits (the currency of quantum computing).

Fortunately, it seems that this is all about to change after a group of researchers were kind enough to publish their blueprint for a practical, scalable device that is well within the grasp of modern technology.

The blueprint for a microwave trapped ion quantum computer were published recently and if this is your bag it might make fascinating reading.

If you're not au fait with such things then it's still worth having a skim through the paper because it's honestly not that hard going.

Of course it will be the size of a reasonably sized building when finished and I did cast my mind back to the old days of ENIAC when mention was made of "vacuum devices" but hey, these are the very early days of quantum computing -- right?

I wonder how much the world will change when we can all fit a quantum computer with several giga-qbits in our pockets -- as we do now with silicon-based processors that are found in our smartphones. Just what amazing things will all this incredible computing power deliver?

No, seriously -- what will all this incredible computing power deliver?

Perhaps Thomas Watson's famous prediction from 1943 that "there is a world market for maybe five computers" will actually be true of quantum computers.

I mean, outside of science and cryptography, why would we need so much computing power?

Ah.. there's a hint of exactly what the most common application for quantum computers will be in that sentence above: cryptography.

He who owns a quantum computer owns the world (or at least the secure data channels).

A suitably large quantum computer would effectively destroy the ability to create a secure communications link using non-quantum technology. Even the most powerful encryption techniques based on non-quantum architecture computers could be broken in seconds with a decent quantum machine.

Think of the huge political and military advantage this would give to any nation that was able to successfully deploy such a computer. Think of the destabilising effect such a computer might have on world peace, should it be in the hands of just one nation.

Hmmm... if everyone's wishing for a super-dooper quantum computer then perhaps they should stop and think about the ramifications, should their wish come true.

Damn, don't you hate it that every piece of technology has a bad side as well as a good side?

What will readers be using their "ZX80-Quantum Edition" for when it starts appearing in stores? Share your thoughts and insights in the forums.

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