Landmarks events don't occur very often in life, and as advancements in technology come and go, the landmark evens come less frequently. Consider the area of transportation. For centuries, we relied on the brute force approach, while in the last 125 years we have gone from horse-drawn carriages to steam powered and gas powered engines, on to flight and eventually to space travel. The last major landmark is now more than 30 years in the past, and it's difficult to say what will happen next.

We can see similar progress in the realm of computing, and narrowing things down a bit in the history of Microsoft. There have been a few major transitions over the past 25 or so years. 8-bit to 16-bit computing was a massive step forward, with address spaces increasing from 20-bit to 24-bit and a nearly complete rewrite of the entire Operating System. The transition from 16-bit to 32-bit came quite a bit later, and it happened in stages. First we got the hardware with the 386, and over the next five years we began to see software that utilized the added instructions and power that 32-bit computing provided. The benefits were all there, but it required quite a bit of effort to realize them, and it wasn't until the introduction of Windows NT and/or Windows 95 that we really saw the shift away from the old 16-bit model and into the new 32-bit world.

You can see the historical perspective in the following slide. Keep in mind that while there are many more releases in the modern era (post 1993), many of the releases are incremental upgrades. 95 to 98 to Me were not major events, and many people skipped the last version. Similarly, NT 4.0 to 2000 to XP while all useful upgrades didn't exactly shake the foundations of computing.

The next transition is now upon us. Of course we're talking about the official launch of Windows XP 64. It has taken a long time for us to really begin to reach the limits of 32-bit computing (at least on the desktop), and while the transition may not be as bumpy as the change from 16 to 32-bits, there will still be some differences and the accompanying transitional period. This year's WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) focused on the advancements that the new 64-bit OS will bring, as well as taking a look at other technologies that are due in the next couple of years.

Gates characterized the early 16-bit days of Windows as an exploration into what was useful. For many people, the initial question was often "why bother with a GUI?" After the first decade of Windows, the question was no longer present, as most people had come to accept the GUI as a common sense solution. The second decade of Windows was characterized by increases in productivity and the change to 32-bit platforms. Gates suggested that the third decade of Windows and the shift to 64-bits will bring the greatest increases in productivity as well as the most competition that we have yet seen.

What Took So Long?
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    from page 3 "...and with the largest readily available DIMMs currently coming in at 2 GB in size"

    in reply to #5, #6 - Crucial have had 4GB PC2100 DIMMs available for purchase from their website for quite some time. They're certainly not cheap, but they are readily available. If you've got the cash I'm sure they'll sell you a few dozen of them.
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    MS may have needed to restrict 64bit to long longs due to some internal operating system code issues ... If, in fact, linux distros that run on x86-64 impliment 64bit longs this may be the case. Otherwise I'd lean towards a hardware issue.

    At this point I haven't looked into it, but I will be sure to ask around (as this is surely the place to do it).
  • bobsmith1492 - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    Melgross - is that English?? I read it over real quickly and it was like... dude, what's he talking about? It just took a good close look though. :P
  • melgross - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    MS wants to control whatever they can. Control graphics memory and we are another step towards commoditized graphics boards.

    I wonder why MS went the way they did with the 64 bitness of the system. They went to (LL)P64 where just the long longs and the pointers are 64 bit, rather than LP64, where the longs are also 64 bit.

    They are the only ones to do that. It seems like a half measure. A conversion from any Unix distro (or OS X) would need more work than is good, as well as a lessening in it's effectiveness as a 64 bit system. Are the 64 bit extentions of the x86 chips at fault?
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    Okay, the typos are fixed, and those that didn't like the 8-bit PNG graphics should now be happy. Iit was 4:30 AM when we finished, so our judgement was a bit impaired.) Just don't complain about how the PNGs are now five times as large. :)

    My personal opinion is that Windows XP removed most of the problems with the Windows platform. We'll see how Longhorn works out when it gets here, but that's still almost two years off. The graphics effects are nice, but pretty much totally unnecessary. Hopefully, we'll see some true improvements in the overall performance and not just eye candy.
  • Googer - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    Linux on a MAC: Total freedom from with in a confined space.
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    tbh, with the current state of things Linux game performance is not up to par with windows. Even with windows managing graphics memory, windows performance will likely be better.

    And from a workstation perspective, having virtualized graphics memory for free is more of a blessing than a curse.

    I do think it would be better if MS gave graphics developers a choice whether to allow windows to manage graphics memory or not...
  • Son of a N00b - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    dont you dare go screwing up the performance of my vid card ms...if you do im going linux...
  • suryad - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    Agreed. Windows should not be managing graphics ram...unless MS came up with some new techniques...MS seems to be pulling out all the stops though in my opinion. I think the hybrid drive is a good idea but like #12 said...that is quite a concern!
  • Cygni - Tuesday, April 26, 2005 - link

    #10's post makes me giggle.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now