When Will Quantum Computing Have Its FORTRAN Moment?

  • Superposition
  • Entanglement
  • Interference
  • Unitary transformations
  • Quantum parallelism
  • Quantum Fourier transforms
  • Phase estimation
  • Amplitude amplification
  • Two years? I doubt it. Four to five years? I can definitely see it. Three years? I wouldn’t be completely surprised, but still surprised. More than five years? I’d be disappointed, but it’s possible.
  • I’d bet that we’ll see a high-level programming model and associated high-level programming language for quantum computing in the same timeframe as we see 512 to 1024-qubit machines. Using a Moore’s Law-like model of doubling qubits every twelve to eighteen months, and assuming we see a 128-qubit machine this year, we could see a 512-qubit machine in two to three years and a 1024-qubit machine in three to five years. Three to four years seems like a reasonable expectation — at least on the hardware front.
  • If as given in the ENIAC moment paper it does indeed take five to seven years to reach the ENIAC moment, it may take another two to five years to reach the FORTRAN moment. That’s 5+2 to 7+5 or 7 to 12 years, with 9–10 years as the average. Yikes, that a depressingly long wait from today!
  • Although there was an expectation of seeing a 128-qubit machine in 2019, that didn’t happen and we ended up with 53 qubits. If we’re lucky, we may see 64 qubits in 2020, which means we wouldn’t see 512 qubits for another three to five years and 1024 qubits in four to six years.
  • Some of the work to develop the concepts, algorithms, and software for a quantum programming language could indeed occur in parallel with development of the hardware, but sometimes lack of hardware ends up slowing software efforts, if for no other reason than management thinking that the priority and resources can be lowered or slowed if the hardware isn’t going to be ready to be exploited by the software.

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