Forty years ago, IBM researcher Charlie Bennett helped usher in the study of quantum mechanics’ impact on computing. IBM is still at it—and so is Bennett.
In May 1981, at a conference center housed in a chateau-style mansion outside Boston, a few dozen physicists and computer scientists gathered for a three-day meeting. The assembled brainpower was formidable: One attendee, Caltech’s Richard Feynman, was already a Nobel laureate and would earn a widespread reputation for genius when his 1985 memoir “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character became a bestseller. Numerous others, such as Paul Benioff, Arthur Burks, Freeman Dyson, Edward Fredkin, Rolf Landauer, John Wheeler, and Konrad Zuse, were among the most accomplished figures in their respective research areas.