Iran's 'quantum processor' turned out to be a $600 dev board

Iran's Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari holding the Zedboard "quantum processor"
(Image credit: Tasnim news - CC)

I'm a big defender of writing about technological innovation on the PC Gamer site. I know you love a bit of science, and I'm always desperate to break new discoveries so my fellow PC gamers can be excited about humanity's evolution. So, of course I was raring to go when the Imam Khomeini University of Marine Sciences and Technologies (RA) unveiled the so-called "first product of the quantum processing algorithm."

But it wasn't long before that claim came crumbling down.

In the presence of Iran's Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Coordinating Deputy of the Islamic Republic’s Army (and former Commander of the Navy), the university showed off an impressive looking "Quantum Processor". The board in question is only a few inches each side, with a gorgeous radial circuitry pattern, though one that looked a little too rudimentary to feature any kind of quantum processing power on its own.

If your gut told you the same thing, you'd have been right. Not long after the announcement was made, former US Department of State advisor on Iran Gabriel Noronha discovered that this "quantum processor" is actually a widely available development board.

"You too can get this 'quantum processor' for the low price of $589 on Amazon", he explains. He even adds a screenshot of the Amazon page, in case anyone feels the need to acquire one for themselves.

The board turned out to be a ZedBoard Zynq-7000 development SoC, and it's true spec is nowhere near enough to power a quantum processor. Imagine flipping qubits with just 256GB of storage, 512MB of DDR3 RAM, and only a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor.

One sale site lists the board's potential applications as "video processing, motor control, software acceleration, Linux/Android/RTOS development, embedded ARM processing, general Zynq-7000 AP SoC prototyping." None of those appear quantum adjacent, but you never know…

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Iranian news agency Tasnim explains that "to deal with future threats, it is necessary to pay attention to emerging and ground-breaking technologies," (machine translation). It also notes the board's use as "dealing with deception in positioning systems of surface vessels using algorithms."

I can see them now, gesticulating with a nod, and a tight infliction and serious, narrowed eyes on the word "algorithms." 

As Vice notes, this isn't the first time Iran tried to claim a breakthrough. The country's recent claims of developing a COVID-19 detector turned out to be a fake, as the device was sold as part of a known scam across the Middle East.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.