COMPUTERS AND NETWORKING CONTINUED
FIRST QUANTUM COMPUTER SOLD
For several years, Canada's D-Wave Systems (
www.dwavesys.com) has claimed to have a working,
commercially available quantum computer and, in fact,
demonstrated one as early as 2007. The only problem is
that almost no one believed it was for real. Critics
complained that D-Wave had not published any major
advances or breakthroughs in scientific literature, and the
machine was actually located far away from the demo
site and could not be inspected.
(D-Wave explained that, because of the machine's
liquid helium cooling system and sensitive components, it
could not be moved.) However, a recent paper in the
journal Nature (
www.nature.com) must have settled the
matter, because Lockheed Martin has decided to buy
Relatively little information was made available, but
we do know that the D-Wave One is designed for
industrial problems "encountered by Fortune 500
companies, government, and academia."
The heart of the machine is a superconducting 128-
qubit processor chip running in a cryogenic system that
keeps it nearly at absolute zero. All of that is contained in
a 10 square meter shielded room. This is considerably
short of the 1024-qubit machine the company was
predicting in 2007, but the R&D budget probably gets
■ D-Wave processors on a wafer.
(Copyright © D-Wave Systems.)
tight when you sell zero machines for several years.
In any event, Lockheed Martin seems to have been
sufficiently impressed to jump into the development pool.
Even though the machine has exotic technology inside,
the user interface is fairly straightforward. Supported
programming environments include Python, Java C++,
SQL, and MATLAB. The price was not revealed, but the
Internet rumor mill pegs it at around $10 million. ▲
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
Can't afford a D-Wave One? Not even a used Gateway? Well, how about a Raspberry Pi, which at $25 is probably
the cheapest PC in the world. The machine is the brainchild of
British game developer David Braben, who assembled a few
friends and started the nonprofit Raspberry Pi Foundation
www.raspberrypi.org). The goal is to develop, manufacture, and
distribute the ultra-low-cost computer for use in teaching
programming to children.
Scheduled to hit the market later this year, its specs include a
700 MHz ARM11 processor, 256 MB of SDRAM, composite and
HDMI video output, USB 2.0 and a general-purpose I/O, one
memory card slot, and a collection of open software (Unbuntu,
Python, etc.). This is not exactly a powerhouse, but it sounds pretty
reasonable until you consider that it doesn't come with a keyboard,
mouse, or monitor.
This makes it compare pretty unfavorably with a touch-screen
computer recently developed at the Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Science, slated to sell for $35 —
if they can line up someone to move from prototype to commercial production. As unlikely as that may seem, remember
that this is a country that came up with $2,000 open-heart surgery and the Tata Nano — a car that sells for $2,500 new.
I guess the competition is even tough at the bottom these days. ▲
■ The Raspberry Pi computer with attached
12 Mpixel camera module.
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