Given that our quantum memory register differs from a classical one in that it can store a superposition of the base states of the register, one might wonder what this implies as to the efficiency of quantum computing. The study of quantum computing is relatively new, most give credit to Richard Feynman for being the first to suggest that there were tasks that a quantum computer could perform exponentially better than a classical computer. Feynman observed that a classical computer could not simulate a quantum mechanical system without suffering from exponential slowdown. At the same time he hinted that perhaps by using a device whose behavior was inherently quantum in nature one could simulate such a system without this exponential slowdown. (Feynman)

Several quantum algorithms rely on something called quantum
parallelism. Quantum parallelism arises from the ability of a quantum
memory register to exist in a superposition of base states. A quantum
memory register can exist in a superposition of states, each component
of this superposition may be thought of as a single argument to a
function. A function performed on the register in a superposition of
states is thus performed on each of the components of the
superposition, but this function is only applied one time. Since the
number of possible states is 2^{n} where *n* is the number of qubits
in the quantum register, you can perform in one operation on a quantum
computer what would take an exponential number of operations on a
classical computer. This is fantastic, but the more superposed states
that exist in you register, the smaller the probability that you will
measure any particular one will become.

As an example suppose that you are using a quantum computer to
calculate the function
(*x*) = 2**x* mod 7, for *x*
integers between 0 and 7 inclusive. You could prepare a quantum
register that was in a equally weighted superposition of the states
0-7. Then you could perform the
2**x* mod 7 operation once, and the
register would contain the equally weighted superposition of
1,2,4,6,1,3,5,0 states, these being the outputs of the function
2**x* mod 7 for inputs 0 - 7. When measuring the quantum register you
would have a 2/8 chance of measuring 1, and a 1/8 chance of
measuring any of the other outputs. It would seem that this sort of
parallelism is not useful, as the more we benefit from parallelism the
less likely we are to measure a value of a function for a particular
input. Some clever algorithms have been devised, most notably by Peter
Shor and L. K. Grover which succeed in using quantum parallelism on a
function where they are interested in some property of all the inputs,
not just a particular one.