Quantum Computing

By Henry Newman

There has been a lot of news on quantum computing recently, from reports on NPR to Nature to the usual technical trade publications. The hype is enormous given the potential for changing the landscape, but I think there are a number of outstanding questions.

One of the biggest issues I see is that we have around 60 years of knowledge and understanding of programming languages. We have FORTRAN, COBOL, PL1, C, Python, Java and a whole myriad of languages all revolving around programming as we know it today. If quantum computing is to become successful there has to be an interface that allows it to be programmed easily. What will the interface be?

There will always be instances where people will, for the sake of performance, write machine code. Yes, it still happens today, but for quantum computing, given what I have read, there will have to be a paradigm shift in how things are programmed.

Quantum computing, given the cryogenics involved, is at best going to be relegated to large customers that have the proper facilities. That is not a great deal different than what happened in the 1950s when only the largest organizations had computers.

I think the key to success of this completely disruptive technology (assuming that the technology matches the marketing spec sheet) is going to be the interface and training the right people to use the programing method to utilize the machine. In the beginning, this will be very basic, but the things to watch for, I think, will be the how quickly the infrastructure is developed.

Of course, you are going to need to get data in and out of the machine, communicate with the machine and all the things that we have today. How fast these things come together will determine the success or failure of the technology, I believe.

This article was originally published on June 27, 2013