In a paper published in the science journal Nature, Google said its research lab in Santa Barbara, Calif., had reached a milestone that scientists had been working toward since the 1980s: Its quantum computer performed a task that isn’t possible with current technology.

In this case, a mathematical calculation that the largest supercomputers could not complete in under 10,000 years was done in 3 minutes 20 seconds, Google said in its paper.

Scientists likened Google’s announcement to the Wright brothers’ first plane flight in 1903 — proof that something is really possible even though it may be years before it can fulfill its potential.

“The original Wright flyer was not a useful airplane,” said Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin who reviewed Google’s paper before publication. “But it was designed to prove a point. And it proved the point.”