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The Lessons of Thailand’s Flood

The hard drive industry shows that responding to disasters can be more important than preventing them

4 min read
Thai Navy divers were called in to salvage disk drive manufacturing tools. Their efforts contributed to a quick recovery.
Photo: Western Digital

photo showing workers at Western Digital scrub away the residue of a 2011 flood

Photo: Western Digital
Washed Away: Workers at Western Digital scrub away the residue of a 2011 flood that inundated this hard drive factory and hobbled the global PC industry.

Tawan Suppapunt stands outside the wall of the main building at Western Digital’s Bang Pa-In factory, where he is managing director of hard disk drive operations, pointing to a blue line above his shoulder. The line marks the high-water point—1.8 meters from the ground—of the October 2011 flood that devastated this part of southern Thailand. Floodwaters inundated this plant, the surrounding roads, and many other factories in the region for more than a month. Outside the country, the severe shortage of hard drives caused prices to spike and put a big dent in the profit of global PC, chip, and memory companies.

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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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