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A Quantum Internet

The night of October 29, 1969, marked one of the most historic events in Internet history: it’s when the first data was transmitted over Arpanet, the precursor of the Internet, blipped from a computer at the University of California, which is in Los Angeles, to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute, in Palo Alto.

That evening, the team at UCLA got on the phone with the SRI team and began typing “LOGIN.” “We typed the L and we asked, ‘Did you get the L?’” the UCLA computer scientist Leonard Kleinrock recently recalled. “‘Yep’ came the reply from SRI. We typed the O and asked, ‘Did you get the O?’ ‘Yep.’ We typed the G and asked, ‘Did you get the G?’ Crash! The SRI host had crashed. Thus was the first message that launched the revolution we now call the internet.”

Stephanie Wehner has always been fascinated by the ability of networks to transmit data to each other, as well as their ability to behave unpredictably and crash.

“On a single computer, things will happen nice and sequentially,” said Wehner, a physicist and computer scientist at Delft University of Technology. “On a network, many unexpected things can happen.” This is true in two senses: Programs on connected computers interfere with one another, with surprising effects. And users of networks get creative. With the internet, Wehner noted, initially “people thought we would use it to send around some files.”

Wehner was a computer programmer back in the 90s, and then she grew bored. Now, she is “one of the intellectual leaders of the effort to create a new kind of internet from scratch”. This internet is the quantum internet.

Find out more about this over at Quanta Magazine.

(Image Credit: TheDigitalArtist/ Pixabay)

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