Quantum software has finally left the dark ages with the creation of the first practical, high-level programming language for quantum computers. Although today’s devices are not ready for most practical applications, the language, called Quipper, could guide the design of these futuristic machines, as well as making them easier to program when they do arrive.
“It does all the nice features of a modern classical programming language, adapted to quantum computing,” says Bob Coecke of the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the work. “It’s a tour de force.”
An important feature of a quantum computer is that its bits – known as qubits – can take the values 0 and 1 at the same time. This allows the computer to perform two or more computations simultaneously. But designing computer algorithms that make use of this quantum parallelism is tough.