Quantum computing is a new area of research that has only recently started to blossom. Quantum computing and quantum cryptography were born out of the study of how quantum mechanical principles might be used in performing computations. The Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman observed in 1982 that certain quantum mechanical phenomena could not be simulated efficiently on a classical computer. He suggested that the situation could perhaps be reversed by using quantum mechanics to do computations that are impossible on classical computers. Feynman didn’t present any examples of such devices, and only recently has there been progress in constructing even small versions.
In 1994 the field of quantum computing had a significant breakthrough when Peter Shor of AT&T Research Labs introduced a quantum algorithm that can factor integers in (probabilistic) polynomial time (if a suitable quantum computer is ever built). This was a dramatic breakthrough as it presented one of the first examples of a scenario in which quantum techniques might significantly outperform classical computing techniques.
In this chapter we introduce a couple of examples from the area of quantum computing and quantum cryptography. By no means is this chapter a thorough treatment of this young field, for even as we write this chapter significant breakthroughs are being made at NIST and other places, and the field likely will continue to advance rapidly.
There are many books and expository articles being written on quantum computing. One readable account is [Rieffel-Polak].