The Times (and computing), they are a changing…

There was a time when 64K was considered a lot of memory. Then too, 1 million dollars was a lot of money at one time (as cheerfully depicted when Dr. Evil was thawed out in the first ‘Austin Powers’ movie demanding one million dollars – quickly to be corrected as one billion dollars by his cohorts in crime ).  It’s funny how things change through the years.  Today, in computing terms, 64k (and now even 4 gigabytes) is not that much memory.  4 gigs is the addressable limit of how much memory a 32-bit processor can use.  And an iPhone I can hold in my hand has at least 8 gig of memory.  Wow!!!

To take full advantage of 64-bit processors, applications need to be compiled using 64-bit code and run on a 64-bit operating system.  Fortunately for both developers and end users, this technology has been around for a while. In the Windows marketplace, the MSVC compiler has been able to compile 64-bit code since 2005 (and maybe even a bit before).  Plus, if a lot of low level pointer manipulation isn’t required, many programs can just be recompiled.

For many server applications, it makes sense to compile and run as 64-bit code for performance advantages, both due to the larger addressable memory, and the processor internally using 64 bit data. How is this better? For a colorful illustration, imagine two large dinosaurs standing next to each other enjoying a nice meal. Let’s assume they both have the same size teeth, but one has a much larger jaw and 64 teeth, while the other has only 32.  Which one would devour a larger volume of his meal in the same time period?

If there is one thing I have learned in all my years working in software and hardware engineering, it’s that rapid advances in technology have become the norm.  Vinyl records and cassettes (not to mention 8-track tapes – remember those?) were replaced by CD's then music went all digital, accessible by online download. Flat screen monitors and TV's replaced CRT’s.  And does anyone remember using hard-copy encyclopedias for reports or research?  (Not me of course).

I generally don't make public predictions about where technology is headed, but I do believe that 64-bit applications will replace 32-bit at a rapid pace, since the process of porting 32-bit applications is not very difficult – it’s just takes a little time.

Someday, maybe I will be telling my grandchildren, "I remember when 4 gigs was a lot of memory" and, "A billion dollars used to be lot of money.”

Jim Palo

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