What Is Its Purpose ?
My area of research interest lies generally in the field of SIMD parallel computer architectures and specifically in Cellular Automata models and architectures. Computers of the future will be nothing like today's workstations and PCs except that they will still be extremely useful tools for helping man solve his most challenging problems. Processors are running at faster and faster speeds creating the need to pack more transistors onto our chips. These transistors are getting smaller and smaller. It is obvious to everyone that at some point we will reach a barrier in size and power consumption (which expresses itself as heat dissipation) that cannot be overcome by a new fabrication process. This realization has prompted the recent interest in quantum scale computation. If we could build a logic gate based on the principles of quantum mechanics it would probably be composed of a few or even one atom. We could then use these quantum gates to make a quantum computer. This would provide close to maximal efficiency in how we used materials to build digital devices.
Tomorrow's computers will probably all be parallel architectures utilizing robust parallel algorithms. Indeed we are already spending considerable time and effort to come up with new programming languages and compilers to support this future. Quantum computers (Q-computers) are parallel by design. Q-computers can be thought of as SIMD architectures where the "data" is represented by particular quantum states and the "instructions" are the laws of Physics (which are the same everywhere). Current research in SIMD parallel programming touches on the problems we will face trying to program such architectures. The language our Q-computer programmers will use is Physics. They will deal with the complex dynamics of their programming tasks by breaking them into simpler dynamics which can be physically realized. A unique quality of Q-computer algorithms is that they will only involve local interactions between quantum states. The model of computation that is most like quantum computation is Cellular Automata (CA). All of the research and discoveries in the field in CA are immediately applicable to quantum computation. I believe that the first useful Q-computer will in fact be a quantum Cellular Automata machine (Q-CAM). The future of quantum level computation is closely tied to CA. For this reason we should strive to solve complex problems using CA models which will run "out of the box" on our Q-CAM when it is built.
I have labored to preserve much of the software and tools that have come out of the CA field. The Cellular Automata Library is an attempt to collect together these tools in a package that can be easily used by researchers to continue exploring CA models.
Harris L. Gilliam