Quark-Based Computing
Steve Simmons

The history of the integrated circuit has been an unswerving path to smaller, faster, and denser devices. While the trend shows no current signs of slowing down, it is clear that there are lower limits on component size. Those limits, in turn, enforce maximum speed. At the current rates of improvement we can expect to see ICs reach those limits relatively early in the next century. Even with such improvements as unlimited layering and superconducting, an absolute limit of information density will be reached. Further improvements will require new directions in storage devices, storage schemas, or both.

Memory density can be radically improved by departing from the binary system. The can be done by breaking away from the existing system - left-right, on-off, presence-absence - and making use of a quantized multivalue system where a variety of different states can be expressed by a single, irreducible unit. We refer, of course, to the quark.

At BNR (Binary’s Not Required), we are working on the Quark Universal Information Transfer System, or QUITS. The idea is to demonstrate the feasibility of a multivalue system where a single unit may express a range of values with no ambiguity possible. We selected the quark because of its wide variety of attributes and range within those attributes.

We have developed a proprietary method of quark manipulation, Systematized Quark Unitary Emissions, Location, Control and Holding (SQUELCH). Since SQUELCH is a trade secret rather than a patented system, the internals of its functioning will not be discussed here. Fortunately, many of the implications of such a system can be discussed without compromising the actual implementation details.

Full quark implementation should yield a system where a single particle may express any of the values of charge, spin, truth, beauty, and charm - many more values than are available with standard binary. For our test purposes, we are going to focus on charge only. This will simplify things considerably, as most existing computing equipment is designed for charge-based systems.

To further simplify, we are going to use on the +2/3, -2/3 and 0 charge states. This trinary system should be sufficient to demonstrate the feasibility of production of such machines.

Our first impulse was to simply map binary processing into a trinary machine. After some consideration, however, we decided to opt for a true trivalue logic which includes binary as a subset. If two-value login system have only TRUE and FALSE, a trinary system should have a third value between the two. Our first impulse was to use MU, from the undefinable Zen, but confusion with such things as mu-mesons quickly became apparent. A number of our initial contacts at venture capital firms suspected us of fraud since we didn’t seem to know a quark from a meson. We finally settled on DUH. Other candidates included EH?, SAY WHAT?, HMMM..., but these were rejected because of their use of punctuation.

For the single trinary digit, we have selected the word TRIT as in TRInary Digit. Following the standard pattern, we established a naming convention for other operating units in the machine. The basic working word, loosely equivalent to a byte, is the tryte. A tryte consists of nine trits (we want to maintain powers of three here), and can be broken up into three three-trit units called tribbles. There is no such thing as a two-tribble unit, as the existence of two tribbles always implies the existence of a third. Two ASCII characters fit neatly into a tryte, and we are providing special machine instructions for fetching and depositing characters. Address and arithmetic operations use a three-trite quantity (27 trits), the trilobyte. This value, roughly equivalent to a 40-bit binary quantity, has proven sufficient for all addressing and most arithmetic processes. Ultrahight precision arithmetic is handled in three-trilobyte quantities, the nynobyte.

String process will be provided in hardware instructions as well. With the extremely large number of character values that can fit into a tryte, both EBCDIC and ASCII can be encoded, with a ninth bit used as a tag for indicating type. A null-terminated string of trytes is referred to as a cliche.

The use of such factors as charm, truth, and beauty as data elements leads us to a wealth of new functional capabilities in the system that use them. System interactions with an operator might vary, depending on the appearance and integrity of the operator. Such features could, using modern psychological techniques, radically change the behavior of users. When system can inherent recognize a lie (or, more correctly, negative truth values), system and data integrity improve by orders of magnitude.

Charm would not only be recognized by the system, but could be generated as well. This should greatly ease “computer paranoia,” and give much greater user satisfaction.

The proper use of beauty should be a tremendous aid, not just in commercial installation, but in the fickle, consumer-oriented PC market. Imagine being able to tell a home user that the system will not only look good in his living room but will, over the course of time, improve the appearance of his entire house by selective beauty radiation. Naturally, systems for military use could also be configured with negative beauty quotients.

Logic system based on trinary and n-ary systems will also break new ground. The multiple values possible for a single quark could be uses, as in present systems, to simply express a degree of confidence. With their inherent quantized values, it is also possible to assign a specific meaning to each distinct state. We have done this in a very simple form with the TRUE-DUH-FALSE system. With more values, such distinct states as “I don’t know if I know or not,” “I used to know but I forgot” and “Your mama” are well within reach. Logic systems can be customized for a specific type of inquiry, with specific quark values representing a user-selected set of truths.

The combination of truth, beauty, charm, etc, with a multivalue systems opens up yet another field of potential applications. Possible states in such a system could be “Nice try but no cigar” (high beauty, low truth), “You must be kidding” (low truth, low charm), or “Not on your best day” (low charm, low beauty, low truth). The possibilities in higher level combinations are truly staggering.

We have only scratched the surface of the logic and arithmetic that can possibly be developed on quark systems. Imagine the greater realism when a spreadsheet can honestly report to a business manager that, although it has all the information, it still doesn’t have an answer!

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