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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Quantum computers: Available for free from your own home

Tech companies have been putting their money behind developing quantum computers and generously expanding access to its software.

quantum computing

A quantum computer is pictured.

As you’re reading this, millions of dollars are being invested by big tech companies into developing quantum computers around the globe. Luckily, industry leaders like Microsoft and IBM have also decided that the pursuit of science should have no price tag. Thanks to them, you can run experiments on real quantum computers for free from the comfort of your own home.

While most people certainly like free things, many also don’t know the first thing about quantum computing. It’s challenging enough to explain the binary code behind ‘regular’ computers, so attempting to give a brief written summary of quantum mechanics, qubits and superposition is far beyond the technical ability of anyone who doesn’t currently hold a Nobel Prize in both physics and literature.

Fortunately, Microsoft’s Azure Quantum Katas and IBM’s Quantum Platform each offer the equivalent of a college-level course in quantum computing concepts and programming. The documentation is thorough enough for serious, practical applications while still serving as interesting, digestible material for novices to enjoy.

Of these two sites, IBM’s Quantum Platform is better suited for those just starting out in the quantum world. Not only are its quantum computing lessons more beginner-friendly, but so is its coding interface. The Quantum Composer tool lets users perform guided experiments with quantum circuits visually rather than on a command line. Everything produced is real, executable code that can be run on actual quantum computers.

For those without the luxury of a quantum system at home, IBM even offers free limited cloud access to some of its own quantum computers. Its Open Plan grants users 10 minutes per month of access to quantum systems on any device with modern browsing capabilities.

In fact, IBM’s desire to speed up progress towards useful quantum computing has led to the creation of IBM Quantum Credits. While anyone affiliated with an institution can apply, credits are only awarded to individual research projects that demonstrate outstanding potential; they come with the benefits of extra access to quantum systems and opportunities to connect with other talented minds in the space. This can act as an incentive to get more people interested in using IBM’s Quantum Platform regardless of experience.

Beyond being a fun use of your free time, this open access to quantum computing systems and technology is profoundly important because it reduces entry barriers for anyone interested in working on quantum computing research. Anyone can access these tools and teach themselves an exciting, burgeoning field of science.