"We are really proud of this; it's a big frickin' deal," Dario Gil, director of quantum computing at IBM tells MIT Technology Review. But, as TechCrunch understates it, quantum computing is "a difficult area of technology to understand," so you might just have to trust Gil on this one. During an industry summit in Washington DC on Friday, IBM announced two new quantum computer systems, one that can use 50 qubits and another that uses 20 quibits. People who would know say it's a massive leap from just 18 months ago, when IBM unveiled a 5-qubit quantum computer. In fact, IBM states its new quantum computer can hold a "quantum state" for 90 microseconds—an obviously short amount of time but a record for quantum computing.
If the above is mostly gibberish, let's take a step back. Gizmodo explains that quantum computers, which would be faster at tasks like modeling molecules and factoring numbers, work differently from normal computers. Instead of having bits that are either ones or zeroes, it has qubits that can be both at the same time. The qubits then interact with each other "via the mathematical rules of quantum mechanics." IBM, Google, and others are competing to build a "useful" quantum computer—one that gets rid of the errors inherent in quantum computing and whose "quantum state" never ends. Quantum computers will likely never be available for personal use, but users could access them—as they can with IBM's 20-qubit version—via the cloud.