When I first got into the computer biz, a 500MB disk was the size of a washing machine and cost $50,000. The “hot box” of the day was a one MIP machine with a system bus about as fast as today’s Gigabit Ethernet. And the unimaginably huge user virtual address space of two gigabytes (31 address bits) just blew people away – it was hard to imagine applications would ever need that.

Fast forward 25 years. I’m feeling nervous that my next laptop will only support two gigabytes of physical memory because of that same – now puny – 31 bit physical address space. Partly I’m nervous because my current 3 year old laptop has over 1.1 GB of RAM and I frequently max that out today.

Address-space Creep
One of the Storage Rules of Thumb is you need an extra bit of address every 18 months. So in 25 years that would be 25*12 = 300 months \ 18 = almost 17 bits over the then common 16 bit address space. Theory and practice tell me that my next laptop won’t have the memory capacity I’ll require over its 3 year life.

Memo to Paul Otellini
Applications are no longer driving chip requirements: storage is. So a 64-bit internals chip with even a 36-bit physical (64GB) address space – something like the old 386SX – would do wonders for staving off AMD in laptops. And if it gave you an excuse to cut 64-bit Core Duo 2 chip prices in the server space you could cut AMD off at the knees.

The thing is, Intel has to realize that your current gang of chip engineers are 10 years out of date. Just as power consumption was the coming thing even six years ago – I met with numerous Intel marketers and engineers and told them so – address bits are the coming thing in the next 6 months.

BTW – 64 bit computing is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Intel should start talking it up. Yes, you missed the boat with the Itanium toaster oven and boat anchor. Admit it. Eat a little crow. Humanize yourselves. It isn’t like anyone who cares doesn’t already know.