Quantum computers, at long last, finally seem to be coming into their own with the promise of being far superior from its competition by years end. But this leads to one big problem, very few people actually know how to work them, let alone program them. So what is quantum programming anyhow? Quantum programming is a set of programming languages that express quantum algorithms using high-level constructs. It is through these complex algorithms, that conventional computers aren’t capable of handling, that set apart quantum computers from the rest. A normal computer is based on bits, which are variables that just have two possible values (0 or 1/true or false), where as quantum computers are also based on these two variables, but where it differs is that they are also based on qubits. These qubits mean that between these two variables there can exist many other variables which we call superposition states.
These states can be summed up as values that exist part way between. After Google unveiled a new quantum chip design, the bold claim of quantum computers achieving “quantum supremacy” was born. This phrase, summed up, means to perform tasks and calculations that are physically impossible for a normal computer to achieve. There is a lot of conventional belief that quantum programming is a drastically complex process, that very few scientists are able to understand. But with companies such as IBM and Google already having created quantum devices, the time to start looking into quantum programming as a mainstream action is now.
So where to begin looking if you are interested or curious about learning quantum programming? Well for starters it may be relieving to learn that you do not need a quantum computer in order to begin learning quantum programming. Simple quantum programs can easily be simulated on a normal computer. QISKit offers developers a way to explore IBM’s Quantum Experience. It uses a Python interface which enables a user to experiment with and work with quantum circuits.
One of the main reasons that are stopping the growth of quantum programmers is the lack of accessibility to quantum computers. Where as you can start on a normal computer with APIs offered through different sites, quantum computers are likely to behave quite different than normal computers. This is a problem facing quantum programming since until there are tangible incentives for someone to learn the skill and until the software to run it is more widely available, it is hard to convince programmers to invest time and their skills into learning quantum programming especially since, unlike other programming languages, a knowledge in quantum programming doesn’t necessarily transfer over to other programming languages where most programming languages have significant overlap amongst each other.
Also, with all these advancements and leading edge technologies that exist within quantum programming, it’s not a surprising fact that programming a quantum computer is much harder than that of conventional computers. To start, building a quantum algorithm is far more complex than what most programmers are used to seeing, which means an understanding of quantum physics, which is what will give qubits their properties, is recommended. While it is not a requirement to have a degree in the field, a basic understanding will definitely help since it is a far departure from that of normal computer programming.
These are some of the problems that the companies building these machines have recognized, which is why we have recently started seeing services offered where anyone can go and start using quantum computing through APIs and other programs. Also, these companies are really investing a lot of effort into making the programming framework in a way that will allow programmers to use them efficiently. Where as, just like any new technology, there are risks involved into dedicating time and effort into learning quantum programming, the potential pay off in being on the cutting edge in the next major evolution of programming offers huge incentives. Even if quantum computers only perform at a marginally faster speed than a normal computer, it will be enough of an incentive for most companies and users to switch to quantum computing in the future. Though if early indications are reliable, quantum computing should far surpass that of its predecessors. The opportunity to learn quantum programming now, and get a head start on other programmers, is not only a great opportunity but the tools necessary to help you get started are already readily available to you.
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