When I go out to find a new PC – Many Years from now. Will it be equipped with a floppy drive, 2 gigs of RAM and 1 gig WiFi. Can it process a Terrabyte of data or will it be real slow. Will it be a PC, Intel or AMD, and will it be 64 bit.
Windows 7 is just around the corner. It will have something like 20 versions of it. Most important, it will have 32 bit versions as well as 64 bit versions.
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I remember when we went to 32 from 16. Windows 95 had the ability to “Thunk” – basically run the 16 bit software in the 32 bit Operating System. However, once we got past Win9x, we lost the 16 bit code. That took approx. 5 years to phase out.
64 bit computing has been around for a few years now. You can install 64 bit Windows or 64 bit Vista. Even Linux comes in 64 bit flavor. If you buy a Mac, Leopard comes 64 bit. You can run 32 bit programs, but you have a choice.
Now what does 32 and 64 really mean? Well I always suggest to think of it this way. Picture a structure – like you would see in American Gladiators. There are ropes hanging from the structure in which people can hold on to move across. With 32 bit computing, you have 32 ropes. With 64 bit computing, you have 64 ropes.
Now if you were one person moving along the structure, you could go from one rope to the next without problem. But in computing, we have several processes running. Just look at your Process explorer. Anti-virus, email, java, some program you downloaded last week and it sits in the toolbar. Print spoolers, Google Update and a host of programs that look questionable like rundll32 and lsass.exe (but they’re not).
All of these programs swing on the ropes. With 32 ropes, they can move around, but every now and then 1 process can get cornered and has to wait for others to move on. With 64 bit processing, you have a lot more room, therefore less “bottleneck”. The end result is a better experience.
Now here is where the waters get muddy. Dual core 32 bit like having 2 structures with 32 ropes. It’s LIKE 64 bit, but it’s not. In some cases, running this way can help – you can actually tell which programs run through which set of ropes. Therefore you can dedicate smaller need programs to 1 processor while larger need programs can cross back and forth. While it’s not very efficient in Dual core processing, when we move to Dual- Quad processing (or 4 structures of 32 ropes), you can really coordinate process.
Confused? Well what is more confusing is why we just don’t set the date to move into 64 bits and be done with it. Just like Apple did – make the core 64 bit and have a “Thunker” to 32 bit.
Thunking was the process in Windows 95 to run 16 bit applications. When I was on the Windows 95 team, we always made the analogy of a funnel. To run the code it had to travel through the funnel first. Not a very fast process. So “Thunking” just means to bring it down to the old 16 bit specification and back.
There are still a lot of programs and hardware that would get confused in a 64 bit world. Others might work, but performance isn’t as amicable as desired. Adobe, for example, their Photoshop CS4 is available in 32 or 64 bit support for Windows, however, the Mac version is still 32 bit.
What is really interesting is how slow we are moving to 64. Game systems move much faster simply because they might just not care about “Backwards compatibility”. A Playstation 2, for example, was 64 bit, but a PS3 uses a different technology called “Cell Processing”. It’s technically 128 bit, but that is Vector processing for smoother quality video. A PC would lose functionality if they used a PS3 processor.
Still, why not just say “Hey, no more 32”? In some cases, it’s to gradually move to 64. In business, moving technologies at a moment’s notice is not going to happen. Appeasing the masses is the goal. One thing is for sure – eventually we will move to 64 bit technology and then stare at a slow process to get systems to 128 bit technology. That is, unless we end up making multi-core processors at 32 bit.
Will you still use me, will you still choose me, when I’m at 64. Whoo.