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64 Bit computing "The" Topic for emerging 64 bit hardware and software.


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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 16th March, 2004, 12:07 PM
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64 Bit Processing

I know quite a bit about computer because I find them interesting and I submerge myself in information about there little intricasies and weird habits but I would like to know more about 64 bit computing. I was wondering if anyone here could give me some information on the difference between 64 bit computing and 32 bit computing. I have my ideas but I want to know for sure. I only ask because we members are the geeks of the geek world and it is our nature, and duty I think, to know these things.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 01:25 PM
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64bit computing and 32bit computing... It's really down to the size of the registers on the CPU! I don't know how much you know about CPUs but...

Onboard a CPU are a bunch of 'registers'. Their main purpose in life is to store information temporarily. Some registers have special functions, and some are general purpose. On a 32bit CPU, these registers are 32bits long! On a 64bit CPU these registers are 64bits long.

If I have a program on a 32bit processor that needs to do 64bit maths, it is possible. However, I have to use two 32bit registers for each 64bit number, and some code to handle what happens when one of the registers spills over into the other.

On a 64bit processor I can just use the register as is.

The biggest benefit is the amount of addressable memory. Once again, picking data out of memory often involves using a register. If my registers are only 32bit in size, then the code can only handle 32bits worth of addressable memory. That's 4GB of memory (including virtual memory).

On a 64bit processor, the code can handle 64bits worth of addressable memory. That's about 16EB (Exabytes) of memory, or 16 billion gigabytes.

That's just some of the benefits.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 03:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aedan
The biggest benefit is the amount of addressable memory. Once again, picking data out of memory often involves using a register. If my registers are only 32bit in size, then the code can only handle 32bits worth of addressable memory.
Ah, Aedan, you've fallen victim to the press.

The size of the internal registers has no bearing on the amount of memory that can be addressed. Even the size of the program counter has only limited bearing. If the theory that the size of the registers controls how much memory you can address were true, then the 6502, 6800, and 8080 would all be limited to 256 bytes of memory because they are 8-bit processors, with 8-bit internal registers, and all of the chips since the 386 would be limited to 4 GB of memory because they are all 32-bit chips. In point of fact, the Pentium Pro family has the capability to address up to, I believe, 64 GB using the 36-bit address extensions. However, very, very few systems implement those extensions, and the systems that do are all high-priced servers.

The main advantage of 64-bit computing (IMHO) is, as you pointed out, the ability to manipulate 64-bit data directly. Although the P-Pro and newer cores have 64-bit operations in the instruction set, they still have to go through some internal gymnastics, because they can only work with 32 bits at a crack.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 05:12 PM
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The program counter on the 6502 is 16bits, however the stack pointer is only 8bit, and hence the stack is limited to an area of memory between 0x100 and 0x1FF.

Without a register of the required length, it's rather hard to deal with memory addresses. Indexed addressing, such as the physical address extensions to the P-Pro are effectively joining two registers together to form a larger effective register.

I thought about putting indexed addressing in there, but things get a bit complex then. Without knowing the depth of other people's understanding, I wanted to keep things simple.

It's no hard and fast rule, as it is highly dependant on CPU's architecture. After all, the 68000 had 32bit registers, but could only handle 24bits of addressing (16MByte).
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Old 16th March, 2004, 05:20 PM
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Rats! I shoulda KNOWN that you were just trying to simplify the discussion.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 07:17 PM
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A quick non-technical answer:

64-bit machines have been in use for sometime already for specialised purposes. I'm talking about Intel Itanium based servers which handle large scale applications.

It is that large increase in memory which allows servers to cope with big volumes of traffic - they can use their memory more and their hard disks less giving better performance and more functionality.

Serious graphics work stations also benefit for much the same reasons.

These expensive machines may well have a bank of 64-bit CPUs, not just one.

It is only recently that 64-bit systems have become cheap enough for us to have one at home.

From our point of view 64-bit architecture should allow Intel and AMD to continue producing faster hardware. We can only guess at what the future holds for desktop 64-bit computing. We won't be seeing amazing new applications until enough people have these machines to justify developing them. That said Unreal Tournament 2004 will have support for 64-bit systems, so that will provide some insight into what may come.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 10:01 PM
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Intel Itanium - been with us sometime? Intel's Itanium is a newcomer to the 64bit field. MIPS introduced their R4000 CPU back in 1991! Nintendo used a modified version of the R4000 core in their N64. HP released their 64bit PA-RISC processor in 1996 - I've got a 64bit PA-RISC machine sitting where I work.

Going by that scale, 64bit computing isn't new at all!
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Old 16th March, 2004, 10:52 PM
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Thanks guys the register answer was what I was looking for, and the part about the 8bit stack pointer was good to know. The scary part was that I read the hex like it wasn't even the base system that I grew up with. I'm a nerd.
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Old 16th March, 2004, 10:57 PM
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Er, I thought everyone grew up with base 16? or was that base 10? I forget!
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Old 16th March, 2004, 11:23 PM
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I meant 'sometime' relative to A64's and WinXP 64-bit.

As for RISC machines I had (at work) an Archimedes in the late 80's, ok it wasn't a 64-bit machine but it was superb from a hardware point of view.

Is your PA-RISC machine directly related to ARM?
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Old 16th March, 2004, 11:38 PM
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What's funny is that my math skills are better in bases other than 10. I don't understand why I just do computations faster and more accurately in base 2, 4, 8, and 16. My base 7 is getting better too.
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Old 17th March, 2004, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danrok
Is your PA-RISC machine directly related to ARM?
PA-RISC is nothing to do with ARM. ARM was Advanced RISC Machine, who belonged to Acorn back in the day. PA-RISC was HP's RISC venture. The PA stands for Precision Architecture.

I seem to remember that Microsoft did a version of Windows NT 4 for 64bit Alpha machines. Rumour has it that they canned Windows 2000 for 64bit Alpha machines when it was in the RC phase. Not having an Alpha machine, I have no idea!
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Old 17th March, 2004, 12:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nki69c
What's funny is that my math skills are better in bases other than 10. I don't understand why I just do computations faster and more accurately in base 2, 4, 8, and 16. My base 7 is getting better too.
Base 2,10 and 16 is where I can do things. Other bases I don't use at all - Don't use means I'm no good at them!
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Old 17th March, 2004, 12:24 AM
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What on earth would you use base-7 for? EBCDIC?

Binary, Octal, and Hex are the only 'Real' number systems. Decimal is for people who count on their fingers and toes.
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Old 17th March, 2004, 02:54 AM
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I have been working on an encryption algorithm, for fun, that uses a base seven squared multiplier. It really operates at base 49 for encryption but it can be easily decrypted in base 7. It is buggy and not really working at all so it is alot of fun.
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Old 17th March, 2004, 06:43 PM
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I wonder if people with extra fingers prefer base 12?
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Old 17th March, 2004, 08:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gizmo
...Decimal is for people who count on their fingers and toes.
So is that why sandals were so popular when I was in college?
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