Monday, March 19, 2007

To the limit one more time...

For the first time in quite a while, computers are hitting a limit in terms of addressable memory. Without playing any tricks, the limits of today's 32-bit systems is 4 gigabytes (2^32).

Perhaps this is the last time we'll hit such a limit, but I think the idea of hitting this limit would have been inconceivable in the days of of the Apple II and other 8-bit systems.

If you back up far enough on Computer Memory Lane, you'll run into this critter, a 16K-RAM cartridge for the Atari 400 and 800 computers introduced ~1979.

As a kid, I remember always wishing I had another $300 (?) to plunk down on one of these babies. I don't have the specs, but these cartridges were about 6-8" wide, 4" high and about 3/4" thick. Maximum addressable memory: 65,536 bytes (RAM + ROM).

Below is today's 2.0 GB SD card. It's smaller than a matchbook, and you can get one for around $30. If you stack those old Atari 16K-RAM cartridges a mile high, you still won't equal it in terms of capacity.

Next, we move on to 64-bit computing. The memory limit this time is 1.84467441 × 1019. That's an incomprehensibly huge number, on the order of a 100 MB for each brain cell inside your head.


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