Controlling a Quantum Computer with Code

11 May 2018

In 1982, Richard Feynman speculated that some of the strange properties found in quantum mechanics could be useful for performing computation — and even outperform classical computers. By 1994, Peter Shor had invented an algorithm for separating numbers into their prime factors better than any classical computer could. But the question remained: was it possible to build a quantum computer?

Today we know that it is indeed possible. Quantum computers have arrived, moving from the realm of academia into the realm of engineering. Building Rigetti’s quantum computer is a multidisciplinary effort, combining expertise in such areas as electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.

But programming a quantum computer is different than programming a classical one, and software engineers make equally significant contributions to building a full-stack quantum solution. In a recent talk, Rigetti software engineer Steven Heidel explains in simple terms all the new and innovative software engineering involved in making quantum computers work.

Originally published at on May 11, 2018.