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In 1943, IBM’s first president, Thomas J. Watson, allegedly made this spectacularly incorrect prediction: “I think there’s a world market for maybe five computers.” In recent times, the authenticity of this quote has been contested as some believe Watson – if he did say it – was referring to adding machines the size of a house powered by large vacuum tubes.

Three years later, physicist, Sir Charles Darwin, who was director of the British National Physical Laboratory and grandson of the famous 19th century naturalist with the same name, wrote: “It is very possible that ... one machine would suffice to solve all the problems that are demanded of it from the whole country.”

Darwin too was terribly wrong. Regardless, there was simply no way either man could have predicted the tsunami of modern silicon chip-based servers, desktop PCs and mobile devices, such as the modern Apple iPhone, that would flood the world over the next 70 years.

And what a mighty wave it has been. In June 2008, Gartner predicted that there would be two billion PCs in use worldwide this year.

Now the world of computing is once again on the cusp of a revolution. And computers using quantum and nano technologies, in particular, may lead the way when microprocessor manufacturers finally reach their physical limits.

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