If you're as old as me, you'll recall the earliest pronouncements concering the 32-bit 80386 CPU for PCs -- only for databases and high-end computers.
The pronouncement repeated itself for the 64-bit CPUs that are now becoming available for PCs -- only for databases and high-end computers.
Right now, the primary benefit of 64-bit CPUs is accessing more than 2 or 3GB of RAM, which is the current limit for Pentium CPUs running Windows 2000 (2GB) and XP (3GB). What kind of applications need more than 2-3GB RAM?
Here is a press release I came across today:
"Designed to work on the Windows XP 64-Bit Edition [and the AMD Athlon 64 and Opteron CPUs], Panorama Factory 64-Bit Edition removes the 2GB address space limitation of 32-bit software, allowing for much larger panoramas to be processed. ... Digital photography in general and panoramic photography in particular are stretching the limits of the 32-bit architecture."
Reading Panorama's Web site, the 64-bit CPU appears to solve two problems:
1. Panorama Factory allocates a single, contiguous block of virtual memory to hold each uncompressed image during processing. The virtual memory block is 254MB in Windows 95/98/ME, and just under 1GB in Windows NT4/2000/XP -- for 32-bit CPUs.
2. As the resolution of digital cameras increases, fewer images can be processed before Windows complains, "Out of memory."
The address space afforded by 64-bit CPUs and operating systems is 1 terabyte (1,000GB). Which makes me wonder, When will that become insufficient?