The creation of the C programming language was a massive milestone for classical computing. Developed by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the early 1970s, C was an easy programming language for would-be computer coders to learn. At the time, most computer programs were written in what is called assembly language, which communicates directly with the computer’s hardware. But while assembly programs gave users unparalleled control over their machines, they were long, complex, and difficult to debug. C was different. It was easy, intuitive, and helped open up computer programming to an entirely new audience. It was nothing short of a revolution in computing.
Now, nearly 50 years after C was created, computer scientists have reached a similar milestone: A new programming language that brings the same level of coding simplicity to quantum computing.
Drawing parallels between the development of classical computers and the state of quantum computing today is difficult. Quantum computers, for those unfamiliar with them, represent the future of computing as we know it. Unlike a classical computer, which encodes information as a series of ones and zeroes, the “qubits” in a quantum computer can be either a one, a zero, or both at the same time. Quantum computers operate under different, quantum rules to classical computers — and promise to eventually be almost unimaginably fast when it comes to crunching data and carrying out calculations.