Hacking Unplugged

3 min read

Most of the digital world lives in fear of the dreaded dark-side hackers , Jolt Cola-fueled software scalawags who have succumbed to the dark side of The Force. However, I come not to bury these reprobate hackers but to praise their inventiveness with language. Eric Raymond, the compiler of The Jargon File of hacker slang, has said that although "linguistic invention in most subcultures of the modern West is a halting and largely unconscious process, hackers, by contrast, regard slang formation and use as a game to be played for conscious pleasure." Indeed, some of the best and most useful neologisms of recent vintage were coined in the same dank basements and goatish-smelling bedrooms that witnessed the creation of the myriad digital pathogens that have plagued us in the 2000s.

Before getting to my main theme, let me clear up a thing or two about the word hacker . Raymond uses the word in its positive sense of a software or hardware enthusiast who enjoys exploring the limits of code or machine. However, there's a second, equally valid, sense that refers to someone who breaks into or disrupts computer systems or networks. Purists prefer the term cracker for these digital miscreants and mischief-makers. However, the term "hacker"--which has been in the language since at least the early 1960s--has always had malicious connotations attached to it.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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