By 2007, D-Wave had managed to produce a 16-qubit system, the first one complicated enough to run actual problems. They gave it three real-world challenges: solving a sudoku, sorting people at a dinner table, and matching a molecule to a set of molecules in a database. The problems wouldn’t challenge a decrepit Dell. But they were all about optimization, and the chip actually solved them. “That was really the first time when I said, holy crap, you know, this thing’s actually doing what we designed it to do,” Rose says. “Back then we had no idea if it was going to work at all.” But 16 qubits wasn’t nearly enough to tackle a problem that would be of value to a paying customer. He kept pushing his team, producing up to three new designs a year, always aiming to cram more qubits together.
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