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DavidS
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An interesting look at things.

Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:38 pm

After Heater was surprised that my fastest computer was a RPi 3B, I decided to start looking around for a freebee x86 PC. And Heater was correct, they are around, and more powerful than the RPi 3B.

The one I ended up with is an Intel Core i5 quad core, 4GB RAM, some generic Intel GPU, and some AC'97 audio codec chip (yuck on that part).

It came with Windows 7 Ultimate edition, I can tell you after a day of attempting to get that to do anything usable I do not Like the newer M$-Windows.

So I setup 3 primary partitions and a partition hiding bootmanager, then installed React OS on one partition, FreeDOS 1.1 on another, and on the lowest range partition I installed M$-DOS 7.10 + M$-Windows 98SE with KernelEX to run some newer stuff. Note that getting Windows 98 to work with that much RAM was a challenge, though still easier than getting Windows 7 to do anything at all.

FreeDOS I know well, so not much to say there. Though 32-bit PMODE programs are rather fast on the newer HW.

React OS is prety nice, actually usable, and seems to run everyting I want to run. Also shows off some of the speed of the system.

Windows 98 is as it has always been.

I think i will replace Windows 98 + DOS 7.1 with a linux veriant, likely a version of Puppy Linux with a PAE aware kernel build.

So thank you Heater, there realy are more powerful x86 systems out there for free.

Though I still prefer RISC OS, and that is ARM only.

Now a few questions for those that have been making good use of x86 computers:
What other Operating Systems are out there that are worth looking at on the x86 (not including Linux, BSD, Darwin, or MiNIX I know these)?

Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
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scruss
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Wed Sep 28, 2016 11:38 pm

Never heard of React OS; looks quite fun.

Since you have a multi-core x86_64 machine there, I'd recommend giving it a light 64-bit Linux like lubuntu.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Wed Sep 28, 2016 11:47 pm

DavidS wrote: Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
Windows 10 is as good as Windows gets, it's very serviceable and I'm using it every day on my HP lappy. It now includes a Ubuntu bash and my Win10 system hosts a Ubuntu Xenial virtualbox.

You may be able to get ChromeOS running, that's what my wife uses on her Acer - that's a weird thing (the computer, not my wife).
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:44 am

scruss wrote:Never heard of React OS; looks quite fun.

Since you have a multi-core x86_64 machine there, I'd recommend giving it a light 64-bit Linux like lubuntu.
I should have specified:
A 32 Bit OS with PAE support
My error.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:45 am

DougieLawson wrote:
DavidS wrote: Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
Windows 10 is as good as Windows gets, it's very serviceable and I'm using it every day on my HP lappy. It now includes a Ubuntu bash and my Win10 system hosts a Ubuntu Xenial virtualbox.

You may be able to get ChromeOS running, that's what my wife uses on her Acer - that's a weird thing (the computer, not my wife).
I did say that I have no interest in the newer windows, did i not?

As to ChromeOS, as I said not interested in the n*x's I am familiar with them already.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:48 am

scruss wrote:Never heard of React OS; looks quite fun.

Since you have a multi-core x86_64 machine there, I'd recommend giving it a light 64-bit Linux like lubuntu.
ReactOS is an OpenSource clone of Windows NT5 (eg xp/2003/7/etc), that is still usable unlike new windows. ReactOS is 100% open source, see:
http://www.reactos.org/
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 4:15 am

So far I am impressed with ReactOS.

I did have to figure out the USB bios settings, as it was crashing on loading the hidusb.sys driver, though once I got that figured it is a great win32 clone (never thought I would put great and win32 in the same phrase).

Actually runs everything I would have any use of, and would not be dificult to strip it down, write a simpler desktop shell, and have a really small very usable Win32 compatible OS. I am going to have to look into the existing ARM ports, and see how hard it would be to port some win32 software to ARM with win32 API (if I can get a working RPi port).
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 6:11 am

DavidS,

What other Operating Systems are out there that are worth looking at on the x86 (not including Linux, BSD, Darwin, or MiNIX I know these)?
None I guess.
Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
What do you mean my "truly modern"? What features would such a "truly modern" OS have, or not have, compared to what we have?

This question cannot be answered with out knowing what "day to day" use may mean?

How is Linux not actually fast for the hardware it runs on?
while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
Don't do that. As we already determined in some other threads writing code in assembler is a waste of human life. Unless you really need it for some platform specific feature. Writing in assembler does not get you any worthwhile speed gains. Especially not if you are using it to access the operating systems API where the performance will depend on the underlying OS rather than your hand crafted calls to it's API.
..PAE...
Why for goodness sake? You have a 64 bit machine there. Use those bits? Besides if you really want to write assembler programs that use gigs of RAM it will be much easier to have the flat 64 bit memory layout.

Keep Win 7, you never know when there is some stupid Windows program you need to use. Throw the rest away and use the space for a Debian Jessie installation. Then you have a development environment on you PC that is very similar to Raspbian. Which is a very convenient state of affairs.

Win 10 is risky proposition. There is a bunch of machines around here that have been upgraded to Win 10. Some of them, for example Fujitsu Lifebook, now crash every hour or so. Even while doing absolutly nothing.

Also it takes a while to figure out how to disable all the spyware Microsoft has put on there. Even then you can not rely on it from a security perspective.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:11 am

Heater wrote:DavidS,

What other Operating Systems are out there that are worth looking at on the x86 (not including Linux, BSD, Darwin, or MiNIX I know these)?
None I guess.
Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
What do you mean my "truly modern"? What features would such a "truly modern" OS have, or not have, compared to what we have?

This question cannot be answered with out knowing what "day to day" use may mean?

How is Linux not actually fast for the hardware it runs on?
Truly modern would be having a good API+ABI with complete support for OpenGL as part of the system, as well as TCP/IP v6. And a decent dynamic scheduled Premtive Multitasking implementation, with a GUI (the features of a GUI have pretty much been set in stone for the last 25 years at least) using a compositing window manager.

Day to day usage is web browsing, with some support for ECMA Script (unfortunate necesity), Video Editing, and playback, video streaming, programming for the host OS and other targets, 3D modeling in an OpenSCAD style, Slicing 3D models into g-code suitable for a RepRap 3D Printer, and a little gaming for fun.
while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
Don't do that. As we already determined in some other threads writing code in assembler is a waste of human life. Unless you really need it for some platform specific feature. Writing in assembler does not get you any worthwhile speed gains. Especially not if you are using it to access the operating systems API where the performance will depend on the underlying OS rather than your hand crafted calls to it's API.
..PAE...
Why for goodness sake? You have a 64 bit machine there. Use those bits? Besides if you really want to write assembler programs that use gigs of RAM it will be much easier to have the flat 64 bit memory layout.
The day that it is no longer possible for people to walk into a store and purchase a brand new computer that is 32-bit only (NO 64 bit support) and has an x86 compatible CPU, then I will consider using the AMD64 modes (as licensed to Intel by AMD). Until then as we have disused elsewhere there is very very little use for 64-bit modes, on ARM, MIPS, or x86.
Keep Win 7, you never know when there is some stupid Windows program you need to use. Throw the rest away and use the space for a Debian Jessie installation. Then you have a development environment on you PC that is very similar to Raspbian. Which is a very convenient state of affairs.

Win 10 is risky proposition. There is a bunch of machines around here that have been upgraded to Win 10. Some of them, for example Fujitsu Lifebook, now crash every hour or so. Even while doing absolutly nothing.

Also it takes a while to figure out how to disable all the spyware Microsoft has put on there. Even then you can not rely on it from a security perspective.
Well I am NOT keeping Windows 7.

I am going to install a variant of Puppy Linux on this as a second boot option.

Though my primary OS on this PC is currently ReactOS, despite being alpha release, it is already more stable than any version of windows I have ever used, and runs every Win32 application I have so far thrown at it, and does well with it.

I can not even say that much for Windows 7, just about all of the older Win32 software I threw at Windows 7 did not run, some of the software not all that old at that. Yes I tried the compatibility settings.

I do have FasmARM running on ReactOS to crossassemble programs for RISC OS. I also have the ARM Target version of TCC installed.

And I am typing this in Firefox running on ReactOS 0.4.2.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:31 am

Other non-linux x86 OSes

AROS ( Open Source Amiga OS)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AROS_Rese ... ing_System
http://icarosdesktop.org/

Haiku (Like BeOS)
https://www.haiku-os.org/

Or since you like assembly - how about Menuet,
and OS written entirely in x86 assembly:

http://www.menuetos.net/

Syllable
http://web.syllable.org/Syllable/index.html
http://forum.syllable.org/

Visopsys: Visual Operating Sytem
http://visopsys.org/about/
Last edited by mikerr on Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:31 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:11 am

DavidS wrote:The day that it is no longer possible for people to walk into a store and purchase a brand new computer that is 32-bit only (NO 64 bit support) and has an x86 compatible CPU, then I will consider using the AMD64 modes (as licensed to Intel by AMD). Until then as we have disused elsewhere there is very very little use for 64-bit modes, on ARM, MIPS, or x86.
I guess it may depend where you live, but that day is now. For a long time now the local computer stores where I live have offered only 64-bit machines.
Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
"truly modern" and "32-bit ONLY" is a contradiction in terms (for desktops)!

You are new to the x86 world and don't have a lot of legacy asm code to worry about, so why on earth not just use the machine you have in the mode its designed to work in now, x64. I don't know what is so hard about writing code for 64-bit machines. In C its a non-issue. In assembler its just as easy (on ARM its actually easier with the new A64 assembler, on Intel its not that difficult: we went from ax (16-bits) to eax (32-bits) now we have rax (64-bits) ). Both x64 and A64 still have 32-bit registers that you are free to use for integer arithmetic.
Last edited by jahboater on Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:30 am

I can understand your reluctance to keep Windows around. I never felt the need for it since 1996 or so.

ReactOS is an amazing piece of work.

I never understood what motivates people to want to create an Open Source clone of operating system that people want and primarily use for running closed source applications. Seemed crazy to me to be spending your time supporting for profit corporations for free.

But on reflection...

By chance I have been using Windows 10 almost exclusively for three or four months now. I have it loaded up with a lot of the Free an Open Source goodies I use on Linux: Chrome, Firefox, Inkscape, Gimp, GCC (under Cygwyn), Node.js, the Atom editor etc.. Sometime I forget I'm using a Windows machine.

Then, in a surprising turn around in recent years Microsoft has been releasing a lot of nice Open Source software. The Visual Studio Code editor, The Chakra Javascript engine from the Edge browser (For use with node.js instead of Coogle's V8). Then there is Mono and a bunch of other stuff. This is surprising in that it's not long ago MS described Open Source as a "cancer".

So in an ironic twist of fate we could end up with a completely open source Windows system built on ReactOS and applications like I mentioned above. At which point we can say "So long Microsoft, and thanks for all the Open Source software"!

Sometimes the world is strange.

Anyway. If you are working with Raspbian, just stick Debian on that PC. It's quick and convenient to be using the same packages, mostly the same configuration files and so on. One can develp code on the Debian PC then move to the Pi. Perhaps rebuilding it there if need be.

Anything else is making life more complicated than it need be. Unless you have specific reasons to be using off the beaten tracks operating systems.
Last edited by Heater on Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:43 am

Heater wrote:Anyway. If you are working with Raspbian, just stick Debian on that PC. It's quick and convenient to be using the same packages, mostly the same configuration files and so on. One can develop code on the Debian PC then move to the Pi. Perhaps rebuilding it there if need be.
Or a distro derived from Debian such as Mint or Ubuntu.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:14 pm

Some Intel resources you should find interesting:-

Intel official instruction set reference:
http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/www/ ... 325383.pdf

See Agner Fogg's five manuals - widely used reference works.
Includes comprehensive instruction timing tables.
http://www.agner.org/optimize/

Full Intel software developer manual:
http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/www/ ... 325462.pdf

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:33 pm

jahboater wrote:
DavidS wrote:The day that it is no longer possible for people to walk into a store and purchase a brand new computer that is 32-bit only (NO 64 bit support) and has an x86 compatible CPU, then I will consider using the AMD64 modes (as licensed to Intel by AMD). Until then as we have disused elsewhere there is very very little use for 64-bit modes, on ARM, MIPS, or x86.
I guess it may depend where you live, but that day is now. For a long time now the local computer stores where I live have offered only 64-bit machines.
Are there any good OS's that are truly modern, truly space effecient, usable for day to day, and actualy fast for the HW they run on, while having a simple enough API+ABI to allow easy programming in IA32 Assembly?
"truly modern" and "32-bit ONLY" is a contradiction in terms (for desktops)!

You are new to the x86 world and don't have a lot of legacy asm code to worry about, so why on earth not just use the machine you have in the mode its designed to work in now, x64. I don't know what is so hard about writing code for 64-bit machines. In C its a non-issue. In assembler its just as easy (on ARM its actually easier with the new A64 assembler, on Intel its not that difficult: we went from ax (16-bits) to eax (32-bits) now we have rax (64-bits) ). Both x64 and A64 still have 32-bit registers that you are free to use for integer arithmetic.
Have you actually looked at ARM Aarch64? It is definitely NOT easier, there are not nearly as many conditional ops, there are a lot of other limits as well.

And on the AMD64 side, it is not so simple either, now we add the REX byte to many of the opcodes, and a whole lot of other unneeded.

And 32 Bit is truly modern, more so than 64-bit. Not going to get into it to much.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:36 pm

DavidS:

Sorry if this is a bit OT but... did you really get that PC for free? Or by freebee you mean "really cheap". Because around here a setup like the one you got would cost around 150-200$.

Good luck with your quest, even if really don't understand why you want what you want. But hey, to each its own, right?

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:45 pm

jahboater wrote:Some Intel resources you should find interesting:-

Intel official instruction set reference:
http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/www/ ... 325383.pdf

See Agner Fogg's five manuals - widely used reference works.
Includes comprehensive instruction timing tables.
http://www.agner.org/optimize/

Full Intel software developer manual:
http://www.intel.co.uk/content/dam/www/ ... 325462.pdf
Have them, and they had been a large part of why I had not attempted to get any newer Intel/AMD IA32/AMD64 machine of any kind. The newer ISA leaves something to be desired (not sure what AMD was thinking with the way they did AMD64, which is now used by Intel as well).

Yes I know that there is the ability to have 32-bit code in long mode, and thus run 32 bit stuff on 64 bit Operating Systems, though that is still a problem in some cases. Like all of the 32-bit Windows software that relies on the 32-bit segments in there LDT, there are no longer segments in Long mode at all, no GDT no LDT (which is great for 100% new stuff, though terible for all that already is out there).

As to my reason for choosing ReactOS, I am using a number of packages that I know well from when I was more using x86, packages that are open source and written for Win32 and written in mostly IA32 Assembly.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:49 pm

Thank you all for the input. Kolibri OS looks like a good option, and one that is new to me. Forked from Menuet OS (which I did already know about from the 1990's), though Menuet OS is now focused on closed source AMD64 work, while Kolibri OS is still open source and still IA32.

It looks a lot more usable than Menuet was when I last saw.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 2:57 pm

Tzarls wrote:DavidS:

Sorry if this is a bit OT but... did you really get that PC for free? Or by freebee you mean "really cheap". Because around here a setup like the one you got would cost around 150-200$.

Good luck with your quest, even if really don't understand why you want what you want. But hey, to each its own, right?
It was truly free. It was being thrown out by a local resident in this town that was upgrading, so I asked about it.

I can not even afford another Raspberry Pi at this time, so only a free PC can count. Though I can not use it much, it draws a lot of electrical energy (as much as 500 Watts at times).
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 4:25 pm

DavidS wrote:Have you actually looked at ARM Aarch64? It is definitely NOT easier, there are not nearly as many conditional ops, there are a lot of other limits as well.
Yes, I do use it.
Its still got a lot more conditional stuff than x86 has (CSEL, CINC, CNEG etc etc which are quite useful). But there's lots of other good stuff. A trivial example: the cbz and cbnz instructions on 32-bit can only jump forwards and only by 140 bytes which is a bit limiting. On 64-bit, they can jump in both directions, up to 1MB. Much more useful and they can be used for loops. The extra 4 bits in the opcode from losing conditional execution allows 31 registers, larger immediates and so on. I agree STM/LDM are a sad loss but they were slow. LDP and STP can take any pair of registers including two the same (a common instruction is "stp xzr,xzr,<addr>" which writes 16 bytes of zeros, xzr is 64-bit register 31 when read it returns zero, that's one instruction and no registers - how many insns/regs would it take in A32?), and they are fast. Loading immediates is easier with movz and movk and there is less need for literal pools. The syntax is easier now, again trivia, but you now don't need the # for immediates any more. The syntax for neon simd stuff is FAR simpler. They (ARM) spent six years designing it. I like it, perhaps its just me! Enough waffle!
And on the AMD64 side, it is not so simple either, now we add the REX byte to many of the opcodes.
The assembler does all that, so I don't care. In general it adds the byte for 16-bit and 64-bit operations, 8 and 32 bit ops remain the same, and they are the most common.
And 32 Bit is truly modern, more so than 64-bit.
???

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:09 pm

Ok seeing your confusion on 32-bit being more modern:

There are good reasons that 64-bit was abandoned, despite many working commercially available examples, in the late 1980's. It shows something that I remember seeing the specs on those old 64-bitters, yet I do not recall the names quickly.

The use of 64 bit is a mess at best. It is great the very very few times it comes in useful, the other 99.99% of the time it is something you have to work around.
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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:17 pm

Way to go David.

Why would it not be free? The world has been swimming in discarded old PCs for decades now. You just have to find them. In the dumpster or by knowing who is throwing out what and asking first. In my office we have 5 perfectly good PCs that are only three years old or so. They have not been used for a couple of years as everyone started using Macbooks and the like. One day we will need the space and then out they go.

Even better now a days is that Moore's law hasn't been advancing things as rapidly as in decades gone by. So if you find a two or three year old PC it performs as well as a new shop bought one.

I have personally never bought a PC for home use. Never wanted to actually pay for those big ugly, noisy boxes. But there is always a few in the house. They come from discards from friends and offices.

All you need now David is find an SSD to put in there. That has such a dramatic difference on boot times and application load times. And silent too. Best upgrade I ever made to anything. Perhaps a bit hard to find as throw outs though.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:02 pm

Heater wrote:Way to go David.

Why would it not be free? The world has been swimming in discarded old PCs for decades now. You just have to find them. In the dumpster or by knowing who is throwing out what and asking first.
Maybe in some parts of the world. Here, I'm sure, you wont find anyone throwing a 3, 4, 5 year old PC to the dumpster or giving it away for free. The last computer I saw discarded was an Atari 800xl,and it was not working. Today you can find people selling Pentium 4 systems for around 25$. A d you'll find buying that stuff because they can't afford to get more up to date things. Some time ago someone around here posted about getting Ps3 cameras for 5$... Those get sold here for about 3 or more times that price. A few months ago I got a Cinema Display in working condition, with an "alternative" power supply and 7/10 cosmetics and I payed around 90$ for it. And that would be the cheapest you're going to get. I also had to pay around 100$ for a q9550.

So, why wouldn't it be free? Why should it be free? At least in my country there's no such thing as a free PC.

I agree with the SSD recommendation, BTW.

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Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:24 pm

Tzarls,

I'm sure every country has a different situation. Here in Finland there is a lot less stuff to be found in dumpsters or being discarded by people and business's compared to England, for example.

Where are you by the way?

But you got me thinking...back in 1995 I did actually pay 50 GBP for a IBM PS2 386 PC discarded from a bank. Given the change in my circumstances since then that is about the same cost to me as a Pi 3 !

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Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:02 pm

Re: An interesting look at things.

Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:27 pm

DavidS,
Ok seeing your confusion on 32-bit being more modern:
There is no confusion.

I have no idea much what went on in the computer world before the micro-processor. I do know that all kind of architectures were tried. Different word widths, different number formats etc. Certainly mini-computers like the Data General Nova and PDP-11 in the 1970s were not 64 bit. No doubt due to limitations of size, power consumption, cost etc. Memory was really expensive then.

In the micro-processor world we started with 4 bit processors, Intel 4040, I imagine that is dictated by the number of transistors that could be integrated onto a silicon chip at the time.

Chip technology rapidly improved, transistors got smaller, more could be put on a single chip. So as the years went by we got 8 bit micro-processors, then 16, then 32, then 64.

All in line with Moore's Law.

The AMD 64 bit architecture is already 16 years old. So I guess you could say it is so old as not to be "modern" anymore. 16 years is an eternity compared to the rate of progress since 1974. It's everywhere, it's run of the mill.

Certainly 64 bit was not "abandoned" as an idea back then. It's just that we did not have the technology to do it economically. Now we do.

I see no reason why "use of 64 bit is a mess at best". Why would what is effectively:

Code: Select all

loop:
add a, b
jmp loop
in my pseudo assembler language, be any more of a mess if "a" and "b" and the address of "loop" are 64 bits rather than 32 or 16 or even 8?

Certainly if I want to handle a lot of data, like a database or video editing and a ton of other things, then a flat 64 bit address space makes life much less of a mess.

In the world of dirt cheap micro-controllers, as opposed to general purpose computing, I guess we could say 32 bit's is modern. Like the STM32F4 and Cypress devices I have here. But, hey, the Raspberry Pi shows that even really small, cheap systems can be 64 bit today.

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