If Our Software Cant Come, We Wont Go

I would not have wanted a 32-bit laptop if it ran only software yet to be written.

I didnt buy my first 32-bit PC to run 32-bit applications. The year was 1989, I spent most of my workday in DOS and my decision to consider only 386-based laptops narrowed the field to two high-priced machines—but products such as Qualitas 386Max made it seem like false economy to buy a 16-bit system that wouldnt let me arrange my memory and other resources as I pleased.

Ive never regretted my subsequent choice of a 12.5MHz GRiD: Its 386 CPU gave it the headroom to do a huge amount of work until its hard disk finally died in 1996, and I didnt think it worth the cost of repair.

But now, its 2003; were all running 32-bit applications, except for a few special cases; and were looking at the prospect of x86-64 chips from AMD appearing in servers in April—and in desktop-oriented configurations before the end of September. And people are asking me, "Why do I need a 64-bit PC?"

I could offer you three numbers that answer the question directly. The parts of the human genome can barely be counted with 32-bit numbers. The bytes in a 20-minute video clip cant quite be indexed with 32 bits. The people of the world cant, by a long way, be given individual network addresses in a 32-bit address space. Applications, especially those enabled by explosions in processing power and bandwidth, are ready for more.

I could also remind you that no one has ever correctly anticipated what people would do with the next wave of processor power. The 286-based PC AT was introduced by IBM as a multiuser machine. The 386 was likewise supposed to be a chip for departmental servers. I dont believe weve found a ceiling yet.

Whats most important to note, though, is that I would not have wanted a 32-bit laptop if it ran only software yet to be written. It ran my old software better. That was the immediate benefit. So will it be when the wizards at V Communications or VMware or Connectix get their hands on the x86-64.

Im expecting the flexibility and power to run any of several 32-bit operating systems, giving me access to all their applications and in some cases making them more powerful as well. I know Ill want what the 64-bit PC will offer.

Send your 64-bit wish list to me at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.