Computers: Where They Came From and Where They're Going

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Computers: Where They Came From and Where They're Going

The remarkable exponential progress of computer technology has gone on for over a century now, with the promise of artificial intelligence that uses quantum computers with access to big data soon upon us. Nobody can predict exactly what will happen, but the future is sure to be exciting.

In the Beginning

When modern computers were first created, they used vacuum tubes to perform computations. The UNIVAC I weighed sixteen tons and took up over 350 square foot of space. Many scientists theorized that future computers would be the size of buildings.

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Obviously that didn’t happen, but only because a few mechanical geniuses invented the transistor. With transistors, computers thousands of times more powerful than a UNIVAC could fit into a space the size of a postage stamp.

Engineers have been making transistors smaller as time has passed, which has made computers cheaper and more powerful. In 1965 Gordon Moore predicted manufacturers would be able to double the amount of transistors in an integrated circuit every two years or so.

For decades this law held up, but transistors can only get so small before quantum tunneling prevents them from working properly. According to some experts, we’ll hit this barrier somewhere around the year 2026.

Looking to the Future

Many researchers don’t think computational power will end with transistors. The next step on the road to more powerful computers involves using limitations as a tool. That same electron quantum tunneling which is catastrophic to transistors is instrumental for quantum computers.

Quantum computers are still hard to work with, but research is promising. Google claims D-Wave's 2X quantum annealer is already over a hundred million times faster than traditional processors when performing some actions.They won’t necessarily ever be able to do everything faster than traditional transistor-based computers, but the fields they’re superior at have powerful implications for manipulation of big data the computer industry as a whole.

Kurzweil Curve

The Goal

Modern computers are able to handle an awful lot of data, but according to Cisco, people around the world produce over 4.4 exabytes of data per month. That’s 1,700,000,000,000 bytes every single second. No modern computer can process anywhere near that amount of information, but quantum computers might be able to some day. They might be able to sift through that massive amount of data and spot patterns or irregularities that we’d never be able to find with modern processors.

Nobody really knows how long this could take. It will require more research and changes in computer architecture. Since there are few quantum computers around, the number of people who can truly test the limits of quantum computing are limited. IBM is experimenting with letting people utilize quantum computers via the internet, but this doesn’t give quantum computers access to the vast amounts of information that would be required to to see if they could effectively analyze big data.

There are many resources for streaming information on the internet already. Apache Kafka, for instance, is an open source platform for distributed streaming. Netflix, Spotify, Uber and many more companies already use it to monitor and deliver their streaming information.

If it or another distributed streaming platform could be adapted to handle quantum computer architecture, it could in theory be used to give programs access to vast amounts of data so that researchers could experiment, improve, and find out what quantum computers are really capable of.

Artificial intelligence is already all over the place, whether people realize it or not. IBM's Watson has already beaten the world's greatest chess grand master. Amazon Echo's Alexa can interpret many things its owner says and give useful advice. Google Maps can guide someone through a town, choosing the best route and rerouting on the fly.

Of course, these forms of AI are limited and nothing like what most people might imagine when they think of artificial intelligence. But quantum computing just might help researchers reach the next level of artificial intelligence. Nobody can predict exactly what will happen, but the future of AI research using quantum computers with access to big data looks bright.

By  Mark PalmerEmbed

Author Bio - Mark Palmer is a small business expert and has a passion for helping entrepreneurs make the most out of their company. As a freelance writer, Mark hopes to influence others so they can have a positive business experience.


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