Quantum Computers Sound Great, But Who’s Going to Program Them?

While everyone’s in a rush to get to the end of the quantum computer race, has anyone really given a moment thought as to who will actually program these machines? The idea of achieving quantum supremacy came after Google unveiled its new quantum chip design and is all about creating a device that can perform calculation impossible for a conventional computer to carry out.

Quantum computers should have no trouble in outperforming conventional computers as they work on the basis of qubits. Unlike bits that run conventional computers and either a 0 or a 1, qubits can be both at the same time. This is a phenomenon known as superposition. But in order to demonstrate that thousands of qubits would be needed, and right now, that’s just not possible. So instead of Google is planning to compare the computer’s ability to simulate the behavior of a random arrangement of quantum circuits and estimate it will take around 50 qubits to outdo the most powerful of computers.

IBM is getting ready to release the world’s first commercial universe quantum computing service later this year that will give users the chance to connect to one of its quantum computers via the cloud for a fee. But, there are still many hurdles to overcome before this technology becomes mainstream. One of these problems is that programming a quantum computer is much harder than programming a conventional computer. So, who’s going to program them?

There are a number of quantum simulators available now that will help users get familiar with quantum computing, but it’s not the real thing and is likely to behave very differently.  MIT physicist, Isaac Chuang, said, “The real challenge is whether you can make your algorithm work on real hardware that has imperfections.” It will take time for any computer programmer to learn the skills needed for quantum computing, but until the systems have been developed, what will they learn on?

This is one of the reasons for the push in making quantum devices more accessible. D-wave made available their Qbsoly and Qmasm tools earlier this year in an attempt to get more people into the realms of quantum computing. If the tools are available, more people will be tempted to have a go and budding quantum computer scientists will be born.  And as Google’s researchers wrote in a statement, “If early quantum-computing devices can offer even a modest increase in computing speed or power, early adopters will reap the rewards.”

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