Resources to Help You Get Started in Quantum Computing
(Nature) A growing collection of online tutorials, programming languages and simulators are making it easier than ever to dip your toes into quantum computing.
Several online guides build up from the basics. Physicist Michael Nielsen and software engineer Andy Matuschak have produced a walk-through resource called Quantum Computing for the Very Curious (see go.nature.com/3qazj2p). And IBM has created an interactive toolkit to accompany its Qiskit quantum language, with exercises that can be run in a Jupyter computational notebook.
Microsoft, IBM and Google have all created tools — Q#, Qiskit and Cirq, respectively — that draw heavily on the Python programming language, and have built user-friendly development environments with ample documentation to help coders get started. Microsoft, for example, has created a full quantum development kit (QDK), containing code libraries, a debugger and a resource estimator, which checks in advance how many qubits an algorithm will require.
it’s not just the technology giants that are involved.
Rigetti Computing in Berkeley, California, which has its own 31-qubit machine, has released a quantum-software development kit called Forest, which includes a Python library called pyQuil. And UK-based Cambridge Quantum Computing has launched tket, with the associated pytket library.
Another option is Silq, a language released last year by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. One of its key advantages, says co-creator Benjamin Bichsel, involves ‘uncomputation’. The language automatically resets the temporary values used by a quantum program, rather than forcing programmers to do this tedious work manually.
Actual quantum computers are largely in the hands of private technology firms, who offer access to the hardware on a variety of terms.
IBM makes a five-qubit machine freely available, but to use the company’s more-powerful machines, research organizations need to be part of its Quantum Network, comprising universities, laboratories and companies.
Microsoft offers access to other firms’ quantum computers through its new Azure Quantum platform. This is at a free ‘limited preview’ stage, says Svore, and research institutions can apply to become early adopters.
Google doesn’t sell access to its quantum machines. But Markus Hoffmann, who heads its quantum-computing partnerships and programs team, says that any scientist with a strong proposal for an experiment that could be deployed on Google’s hardware should get in touch.
Ashley Montanaro, a quantum-computing researcher at the University of Bristol, UK, runs his quantum programs through Amazon Web Services, a cloud-computing platform that plugs into other firms’ quantum devices.
Curious scientists can also experiment with an emulator that simulates a quantum computer on a classical machine. Microsoft’s QDK, for example, has a built-in emulator that can simulate a 30-qubit device on a laptop.