OS for Quantum Computers: Is it a requisite?
Quantum computers. Sounds futuristic, right? Let’s talk about that.
First of all, let’s delve into the question: What is a quantum computer? What is quantum computing? Quantum computing is a fairly new concept that has taken the research world by storm. It is a domain of computing that deals with the development of computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the behaviour of atomic or subatomic-sized particles.
The basic difference between a classical computer and a quantum computer is very simple. A classical computer manipulates bits (i.e. binary digits- ones and zeroes) to process information while a quantum computer uses quantum bits or qubits. A qubit is nothing but a binary digit in the form of subatomic particles like electrons or photons. As the name implies, quantum computers follow principles of quantum mechanics like entanglement and superposition.
To be precise, ‘entanglement’ is the principle in which entangled parts of qubits can be generated and the members of the pair exist in a single quantum state. But there is no solid theory that can prove the working of entanglement. Science sure works in mysterious ways. ‘Superposition’ is the ability of a qubit to be in multiple states simultaneously. To superpose qubits, precision lasers or microwave beams are used to manipulate them.
Now moving on to the focal topic. In simple terms, an operating system is an interface between the user and the device. For a classical computer, an operating system’s main function is to manage all the software and hardware of the device. The most common OSs developed for classical computers are Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. On top of that, these OS are usually pre-installed, so it’s hassle-free. The user needs to apply minimum effort to get started.
I’m afraid the same can’t be said for quantum computers because there is no fundamental O.S. for quantum computers. So why are we even here? The thing is, that there is a rift between researchers on whether an OS for quantum computers should even be developed or not. Therefore, the development of an OS for quantum computing, in general, is a topic of great interest amongst researchers.
Currently, quantum computers are not even used comprehensively for programming but there have been a few prominent OSs that have been developed lately which is definitely great news for enhancing quantum computing down the road. Deltaflow.OS is a new operating system which is currently being developed by UK-based research firm- River Lane Research Ltd. River Lane claims its OS for quantum computers ‘empowers the programmer to implement fast operations at the right level’. Another latest development was made by a Chinese startup company — Origin Quantum Computing Technology Co Ltd. Their OS is named Origin Pilot which is designed to boost capabilities of quantum computers like resource management (the ability of an OS to allocate resources to maximize efficiency) and parallel processing( a computing method in which multiple processes are carried out simultaneously).
The development of an operating system is definitely a satisfactory way to test the limits of quantum computing but we don’t have any clue on how our computer architecture is going to look in the next decade or two, so the research is speculative to a certain degree. But if quantum computers are the way forward then the future of computing can be seen in a better light.
About the Author: Aditya Anurag is a second-year student of Computer Engineering at RAIT.