The Grace Hopper Celebration , held a couple of weeks ago in Texas, is the world's largest (about 22K) gathering of women technologists. “Amazing Grace” Hopper , as you may know, was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first compiler-related tools. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today. In 1949, Admiral Hopper was part of the team that developed the UNIVAC I computer .
Also in 1949, computers filled rooms, had limited amounts of memory (bits), and instruction sets for programming them were very unique. It’s very interesting and exciting that history is repeating itself! In 2018, radically new kinds of computers known as quantum computers are being built that fill rooms, have limited amounts of quantum bits (qubits), and their instruction sets are certainly unique. I think that Admiral Hopper would be pleased with the celebration that bears her name, and would be excited about quantum computing!
I’ve been increasingly interested in quantum computing for a couple of years, and so have many of the developers I speak with as a Developer Advocate for Pivotal. I began occasionally doing presentations on quantum computing, and at some point became enamoured of its elegance and potential to solve problems that can’t be solved with classical computers alone. This is a key point about near term quantum processors: They aren’t powerful enough to solve the really hard problems (e.g. breaking RSA encryption with Shor’s algorithm ) yet, but there are hybrid quantum/classical algorithms that will solve very hard problems in the near future. These problems include the areas of optimization, machine learning, and modeling nature itself. Developers that are fluent in both classical and quantum programming will be in a great position to develop applications that implement these algorithms. Technologies that Pivotal stewards, such as Cloud Foundry, Spring and all of its related technologies, are well suited for addressing the classical portions of these algorithms.
And now for a personal announcement: I have thoroughly enjoyed working at Pivotal for over three years (my how time has flown!) Anyone that has attended my presentations knows how I feel about our principles and practices, particularly our very strong emphasis on being kind, which is sorely needed in the times we live in. I believe very strongly in Pivotal’s mission to “Transform How the World Builds Software.” I also feel that quantum computing will help the world solve very important problems (e.g. more energy-efficient food production). After carefully considering these convictions and my passion for the area of quantum computing, I have decided to steer my career in that direction. My announcement is that October 12, 2018 is my last day of a wonderful experience working at Pivotal, and that I will be starting as a Quantum Developer Advocate at IBM beginning October 15, 2018.
In my role as a Quantum Developer Advocate, I'll have the privilege of helping developers understand quantum computing and how to develop programs that run on cloud-based quantum processors that IBM has made available for free! Access to these quantum processors is via an open-source framework named Qiskit, which enables you to get your hands dirty with quantum bits and circuits. Incidentally, my new assignment will involve a similar amount of traveling, often to some of the same conferences, so I hope to continue meeting up with you. And when we do, let’s party like it’s 1949!
James L. (Jim) Weaver
Quantum Developer Advocate
Email: james [dot] weaver [at] ibm [dot] com