I don’t know about you, but the word “quantum” causes mixed feelings.

Half of me gets a shiver up the back of my spine as it generates flashbacks to confusing university lectures on quantum physics and quantum mechanics.

The other half has fonder memories of the classic 90’s TV show Quantum Leap where Dr Sam Beckett tries to correct historical mistakes via time travel.

Now there is a new quantum term to think about; quantum computing, which will let computers and servers process information at speeds previously undreamt of.

Quantum computers are machines that use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. This makes them capable of outperforming even the most powerful supercomputers.

Classical computing, that you use on a daily basis with your laptop and smartphone, encodes information in binary “bits” of 0s or 1s. However, in a quantum computer the basic unit of memory is a quantum bit or qubit.

This is where it get a bit complicated, as qubits are made using physical systems, such as the spin of an electron or the orientation of a photon. This means that these systems can be in many different arrangements all at once resulting in a qubit representing different things simultaneously.

In classical computing, eight bits allows a computer to represent any single number between 0 and 255. However, eight qubits is enough for a quantum computer to represent every number between 0 and 255 at the same time.

In situations where there are a large number of possible combinations, such as trying to find the prime factors of a large number or the best route between two places, quantum computers have a huge advantage over classical computers, as they can consider them simultaneously.

However, we are still several breakthroughs away from quantum computing being reliable enough to be a mainstream resource. But as our grasp of quantum computing improves, it will allow us to solve problems, create forecasts and analyze data in a fraction of time of traditional computing methods.

In the meantime, we have just seen the launch of the first publicly available cloud-based quantum computers. Both AWS and Microsoft have released quantum computing services. Amazon Braket and Azure Quantum are now available for users to experiment with.

Amazon describes their service as:

“A fully managed service that allows scientists, researchers, and developers to begin experimenting with computers from multiple quantum hardware providers in a single place. Bra-ket notation is commonly used to denote quantum mechanical states, and inspired the name of the service.”

So there you have it, if you are looking to follow in the footsteps of Dr Sam Beckett and create your own quantum leap now is the time.