WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Developing the computing platform is one thing, but all computers need software and universal programming languages to gain mass adoption.
Developing the hardware for a new computing platform is only part of the challenge – they need a software stack and programming languages too. This even applies to the latest biological computers and DNA computers built from DNA that have been developing at a pace and recently got their own universal synthetic biology programming language and biological de-bugging software. And now it’s time for quantum computers, computers that are hundreds of millions of times more powerful than today’s logical computers and that might start going mainstream from 2025, to get their own universal language after a startup in the space called Quantum Machines released a new programming language called QUA. The language runs on the startup’s proprietary Quantum Orchestration Platform.
Quantum Machines says its goal is to complete the “stack” that includes quantum computing at the very bottom-most level. Yes, those physical interactions between quantum bits, or “qubits,” are what set quantum computers apart from traditional hardware, but you still need the rest of the hardware that will turn physical interactions into something that will run software. And, of course, you need the software, too, and that’s where QUA comes in.
“The transition from having just specific circuits, physical circuits for specific algorithms, to the stage at which the system is programmable is the dramatic point,” CEO Itavar Siman told Tech Crunch. “Basically, you have a software abstraction layer and then, you get to the era of software and everything accelerated.”
The language Quantum Machine describes in its materials isn’t what you think of when you imagine programming, unless you’re a machine language coder. What’s machine language? That’s the lowest possible level of code, where the instructions aren’t in “natural” or human language and are instead in tiny bits of direct instruction for the hardware itself.
Coder Ben Eater made a great video that walks you through a sample program written in C, which is a higher and more abstract language, and how that information translates all the way down into machine code.
Machine code acts as a reminder that, on a fundamental level, everything inside your computer is passing nano-Morse code back and forth to do everything you see on the screen as well as all the behind the scenes routines and coordination. Since quantum computers have a brand new paradigm for the idea of hardware itself, there’s an opening for a new machine code.
Quantum Machines seems to want to build the entire quantum system, from hardware to all the software to control and highlight it. And if that sounds overly proprietary or like some unfair version of how to develop new technology, we have some bad news for you about the home PC wars of the 1980s or the market share Microsoft Windows still holds among operating systems.
By offering a “package deal” with something for everyone when quantum computing isn’t even a twinkle in the eye of the average consumer, Quantum Machines could be making inroads that will keep it ahead for decades. A universal language, indeed.
“QUA is what we believe the first candidate to become what we define as the ‘quantum computing software abstraction layer,’” says Sivan, “and in 20 years we might look back on QUA the way today’s users view DOS.”