Scientists around the world have been dabbling in quantum computing for years, but most of the work has been focused on creating a reliable medium for running quantum calculations. The programming languages used in quantum computing have been of secondary importance. However, Microsoft is planning ahead with the upcoming release of its own quantum programming language, which will be fully compatible with Visual Studio.
Quantum computing involves some fundamental shifts from traditional computing, so it makes sense to develop dedicated tools. A quantum computer uses the quantum state of atoms or molecules, like superposition and entanglement, to perform data operations. At its most basic level, a regular computer uses bits that are either 0 or 1 to run calculations. However, a quantum computer uses “qubits” that can be 0, 1, or both 0 and 1. This gives quantum computers much higher theoretical computing power.
Harnessing the power of quantum computing will eventually mean developing a programming language for it. Traditional computers have a myriad of languages that are easier to use than worrying about the way logic gates work in a CPU. That’s not necessarily the case with current quantum computing applications, which are programmed at a lower level that makes more sense to physicists than software developers.
Microsoft’s as-yet-unnamed programming language aims to offer some degree of abstraction from the underlying mechanisms of quantum computers. It borrows some elements from existing languages like Python and C# to give programmers something more familiar. They’ll still have to have some understanding of how qubits work, but the language will allow qubits to work as part of traditional programming constructs like functions and branches.
Quantum teleportation of data is something that comes up a lot when talking about quantum computing. So, as an example of its new programming language, Microsoft wrote a program to teleport some data between two qubits. You can see that above. It makes use of a few functions: EPR (creating entangled qubits), teleport, and teleporttest. Because it supports Visual Studio integration, there will be color coding and debugging included in the code.
With these tools, Microsoft believes researchers will be able to test and develop their quantum computing systems more easily. There will even be a quantum simulator available so developers can practice with the language when they lack access to a quantum computer, which almost everyone does. Even Microsoft doesn’t have a quantum computing platform to work with, but it hopes that will change soon. You can sign up to be alerted when Microsoft makes the new tools available. Be warned; running the quantum simulator locally requires at least 32GB of RAM.