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Wouldn't non-digital computers, those that use a base higher than 2, be faster and more efficient? Especially with Moore's law reaching its limit, wouldn't circuits that have three, four or five states have advantages? Are there computers like that?

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marked as duplicate by David Richerby, Rick Decker, D.W., Yuval Filmus, FrankW Jul 16 '14 at 5:46

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As mentioned in this thread here, this is more due to the electronics of how computers work. It's a lot easier to create an on-off switch then it is an on-off-middle switch. If you're really curious about this, I'd recommend reading about how a computer works at the electronic level, as just doing this on-off switch took a lot of time for people to make properly.

That being said, there are computers coming that work with more than one state, mainly in the form of quantum computers. They can have an on and off state, as well as a "both" state if I'm not mistaken. There are of course advantages such as potential speed boosts from computers like this (though mostly from the way they work physics wise), but then there are also physical limitations imposed as well, such as the fact that they need to be kept incredibly cold to work properly from what has been experimented with so far. Quantum computers are the "main focus" of how to solve the issue of Moore's Law currently though.

But long story short, yes, computers that "use a base higher than 2" could be faster and more effecient, and there are computers like that, but they aren't ready for the mass populations of the world to use yet.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is in relation to @GEMISIS' answer: Google's D-wave quantum computer was expected to outperform the conventional computers but something else happened. It "flunked". Some give the reason it used quantum annealing which was doomed from the beginning. Guess quantum computers are not ready yet. newscientist.com/article/… $\endgroup$ – Younis Shah Jul 16 '14 at 4:06
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    $\begingroup$ It's somewhat misleading to say that qubits can be on, off or "both". One qubit can actually have infinitely many positions, and several qubits can be entangled. On the other hand, each qubit is a superposition of two possible values, so in that sense it is binary. $\endgroup$ – Yuval Filmus Jul 16 '14 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I'm definitely not an expert on quantum computers haha Just from what I've read and such. The main point I wanted to make is that there are computers out there attempting to tackle the problem of Moore's Law hitting it's limitations. :) $\endgroup$ – GEMISIS Jul 17 '14 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ If the three states you're referring to (on-off-middle) are on, off, and high-Z or floating, that would assuredly not be a faster or more efficient computer. When logic is full on or full off, the limitations in speed are imposed by currents and capacitance (how long it takes to charge the gate of a FET). If you have a hard middle voltage, to get there you'll need about double the number of transistors you're using and provide another power supply, or if it's floating (and pulled to middle) you'll have to wait for gate charge to dissipate instead of jamming it in or out. $\endgroup$ – Nick T Feb 20 '15 at 23:02

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