A Former York-Based Company Entering The Quantum Computer Field

Quantum computing could revolutionize the computing world here in the US. It could make our devices smaller and more powerful meaning we can do more. It is exciting to think about the potential this could offer. This could be what allows us to begin to travel to other planets, create exciting new entertainment options or just increase our knowledge of the world. Honeywell at one point had ties to York and has thrown its hand into the quantum computing field bringing it back into the computer industry.

What Is Quantum Computing

Put simply quantum computing is the belief that a bit can be both memory and a processor, which would allow for multiple processes to be completed simultaneously. Currently only one task can be performed by modern computers. It has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than our current computers. 


Honeywell was one of the first companies to design mainframe computers. It was founded in 1906 in Wabash, Indiana to manufacture and market its founder’s mercury seal generator. During World War II they were approached about producing, engineering and manufacturing projects. They developed a tank periscope, camera stabilizers and an autopilot unit for bombers. It was so good it was used on both of the B-29s that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the 1960s the computer mainframe business was heating up. Honeywell had created and sold its first computer system in 1957 and it looked like the mainframe market would be a lucrative place to be. Several different companies began producing them and they included Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data Corporation, Honeywell (later known as BUNCH) and IBM. IBM’s product proved to be the best and Honeywell exited the mainframe business. Burroughs later purchased Sperry, the parent company of Univac and became Unisys, which is headquartered in the Philadelphia area. NCR was eventually acquired by AT&T and in 1998 stopped producing computer hardware. Control Data Group is now called Syntegra, a part of British Telecommunications and specializes in IT consulting. 

Honeywell did not completely exit the computer business at the time. They helped manufacture GE’s Multics operating system which became a major influence of UNIX and they were a world leader in hard drive manufacturing for a time. Eventually after numerous mergers they exited the computer manufacturing world in 1991.

Honeywell In York

Locally we know Honeywell for its manufacturing plant on East Market St. here in York that made instruments for the gas industry. It closed in 2014 citing the failure to meet its expectations for profitability, competitiveness and long-term growth. That portion of the company was sold off and today it focuses on aerospace, oil and gas, building management, military technology, chemistry and materials science. There is a chance that you have a Honeywell meter in your home still to this day.

 Honeywell Making Computers Again

Honeywell joins old competitor IBM along with newer names like Google, Microsoft, Intel and Amazon in the quantum computing field and they are setting the bar high. They intend to improve on the performance of quantum machines by a factor of 10 each year, which would overtake IBM’s more modest goal of doubling performance annually. 

Their first entry into the field is about to be released and it will have double the capacity of IBM’s 53 qubit computer. Honeywell wants to be a leader in this field as the reward for the first company to develop a practical working model will be lucrative. 

Honeywell’s Future

Honeywell began experimenting with quantum computing about a decade ago and developed their first program about five years ago. Their machine uses trapped ion qubits with charged ytterbium atoms manipulated by lasers that gives it the ability to add more qubits and greater computing capabilities. Right now their machine is not as powerful as IBM’s top offering but within three months their machine will be twice as powerful they claim. 

They have also partnered with JP Morgan Chase who want to use the higher computing power to optimize portfolios and to detect fraud. Honeywell plans to use them to simulate molecules for its chemistry and materials science divisions, to perform optimization calculations useful in the oil and gas industry and to pair with AI in their aerospace division.

It is of course too bad that Honeywell no longer calls York home and their accomplishments will probably be met with muted praise here, if it is even acknowledged. While York also played no part in the manufacture of these products, our home is a part of their company’s history, even if they have moved on.

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