Last updated November 1, 2022 at 11:08 AM
The new gold rush in computing is the control of quantum machines. Since the creation of the first commercial model of the computer by the Canadian company D-Wave in 2015, the computer giants are rushing to take control of it. This is the case of Microsoft which has made available in open source to developers, a development kit for quantum computers on MacOs and Linux.
The first version of the development kit was released last year in beta. All the while, the kit was only accessible by Windows users. Before continuing, it is necessary to understand why research in quantum computing is multiplying from year to year. I will take this opportunity to talk about the reasons why we should be interested in quantum computers. To begin with, let's talk about our computers.
The traditional computer
Before going into details we will talk about the functioning of current computers. Our pc work on the principle of a law stated since 1965 by the co-founder of the company Intel, Gordon Moore. According to this law known as Moore's law, the power of a computer would be linked to the number of transistors that its processor contains. Every 2 years (precisely 1,96 years) the number of transistors doubles in a chip, making obsolete the computers released 2 years before.
Gordon Moore predicted that computers will reach their performance limit when chips reach the size of an atom. These predictions were surprisingly correct until 2001 when computer performance started to decline slightly. In 2014 the first engraved chip is approximately 5000 times thinner than a hair.
Apart from the physical limits of a computer, there are also computer limits which depend heavily on the traditional architecture of our PCs.
The files, software, numbers and even letters on your computer all have a few things in common. To generalize, we call them information. The information is all coded as a combination of 1 and 0 called a bit. All processing operations and results are processed in bits. The term IT comes from all of the activities that concern the manipulation of information.
To give you an idea, the information you receive online over a network cable is sent as an electrical pulse or light (in the case of optical cable). The computer interprets these pulses by setting the value to 1 for the bit when it receives the current and the value 0 otherwise.
The property of the bit to take for value either 1 or 0 does not give enough freedom to store or process large information. We must constantly resort to advanced processing algorithms or improve the physical architecture of the machine to optimize its performance. In addition, it is very difficult to process information simultaneously. Even with multiple cores and processors, processing speed is still the key to making it feel like processing simultaneously.
Unfortunately, this process has limits. You may not feel it because you think it is enough to have the best computer on the market. It doesn't always work like that in all cases.
Imagine a computer that sends videos, pages, that makes calculations for millions of people in the world simultaneously. To give you an idea, roll 4 video games 3D in your machine. Your computer responds less and less quickly and sometimes crashes. To play more powerful games, we will want to add more RAM, or graphics card or even hard disk. It's the same problem for servers. If we have easy access to websites, computing software in the cloud, streaming sites, it is thanks to machines called servers. We will need to add more capacity to store more information and more processors to process more information. We will even go so far as to add more machines. The problem is that the number of disks that can be added to a computer is limited by the power of its processor. The number of processors supported is also limited by the architecture of the computer. The amount of data to be stored increases by up to 60% each year worldwide, so imagine the hassle. In our laptops this limit is easily crossed when doing scientific calculations, 3D animation and simulations.
We have gone through the problems of our computers, let's take an interest in the potentials of quantum computers.
To solve the problems of limiting traditional computers, quantum computers seem to be the solution of the moment. The principle of this machine is based on quantum physics. The idea was publicly proposed for the first time by Richard Feynman, during a conference at MIT in 1981.
We have shown that conventional computers process information in the form of combinations of 0 and 1 called bit. A bit is either 1 or 0, quantum computers use the pronounced kubit qbits. A qbit unlike bits has the value of 0, or 1, or a superposition of 0 and 1. This small difference has immense consequences on the speed of information processing and storage.
To help you understand, I have three different bottles of drinks. Malta, tchouk and palm wine. If I was a conventional computer, I would store the 3 bottles in the fridge. For the drinks I have to consume them one after the other to savor each of their tastes.
If I want to behave like a quantum machine, I will store the three bottles of drinks in a single bottle of the same volume in the fridge. Without magic. To consume it, I drink the mixture. With each stroke I distinctly savor the taste of malta, tchouk or palm wine at will without feeling the mixture. Again, without magic.
Do you find the example unrealistic? this is how quantum machines work. Beverage bottles represent information. The classic computer processes the information one after the other. That's why I drink the bottles separately. To store 3 files, you need 3 blocks of space on the hard drive (the fridge). The quantum computer can superimpose the 3 files in a block of spaces (the special bottle). From the qbits which represent the 3 files, the machine simultaneously performs processing at record speed, as if it were processing a file. Which explains my ability to savor the 3 tastes of your choice in one go.
This is one of the non-rigorous examples of the use of qbits in a quantum computer, the exact way of storing data and the management of processing processes are left to the imagination of mathematicians, developers and geeks.
The problem with the overperforming machine
The power of quantum machines is a dream, but it is also to be feared. A quantum machine is so powerful that it can easily crack all the encryption algorithms of our machines with brute force. You realize the danger, but not enough, the rest will set you back. A quantum computer can potentially crack the bitcoin algorithm and its derivatives. Cyber security experts strongly recommend using the most recent versions of encryption algorithm. The time for quantum cryptography is certainly ringing.
Now you have an idea of what a quantum computer is and why it is important to watch it. So I come back to the title of this article which talks about the quantum computer development kit.
And if we come back to the subject
We have seen that we need more and more powerful machines to accelerate research, the production of products and offer quality services to meet the ever increasing demand. Traditional computers are approaching their limit more and more and quantum machines have a computing power which far exceeds that of our current computers.
Currently quantum computers are not available to the public, but some companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft are trying to offer it as a cloud service. Microsoft is ahead of its competitors by offering the development kit for quantum computers for free on Windows, MacOs and Linux.
This kit contains a new programming language called Q # which is intended for creating quantum programs. According to the firm, the kit is compatible with python, a language widely used for numerical calculations. The quantum machine emulator, faster than its first version launched last year, is also available. Microsoft is taking the lead in this new information age to win the market. The library is available on github: http://github.com.
My thought :
I took the time to study and understand the phenomenon of quantum computers in order to explain it intuitively and simplify. I therefore voluntarily discarded any rigor to facilitate the understanding of the technical parts. I hope to encourage African geeks and interested parties to take a closer look at this new technology. I can't wait to see what we can do with it. Africa and everywhere else. If you discover an error or a point that requires further explanation, please write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org.