Making Integer bigger ?

Scott Moore samiam at
Sun Jul 11 22:01:44 CEST 2004

Frank Heckenbach wrote:

>BTW, I'm not sure that C ABIs will actually change in the future.
>Maybe C programmers will simply become used to using `long' almost
>everywhere, just like programmers of Borland Pascal and, especially,
>compatible 32 bit compilers, use `LongInt' regularly ...
It would seem to come down to whether you might consider the C standard 
types as fixed to
their original definitions on the DEC PDP-11 (actually PDP-8, to be 
pedantic), or if they
were intended to "breathe" with the machine word size. The original 
whitebook stated:

Machine          Bits
PDP-11           16
Honeywell 6000   36
IBM 370          32
Interdata 8/32   32

The ANSI version eliminated the reference to specific sizes, but I think 
the intent
was clearly on the side of int being the natural register size for the 
If there is doubt, the question can always be carried to comp.lang.c, 
Dennis Ritchie
himself reads the group.

There is also clearly a precedent for int eventually promoting. The 
PDP-11 was 16 bits int,
the PC was 16 bits int, and now 32 bits. The 16 bit to 32 bit promotion 
appears to have been to leave the int size at the "old" 16 bit meaning, 
then finally
upgrading it to 32 bits when it became clear that 16 bit machines were 
dying off on the

The trend for 32 bit adaption on the desktop was:

Introduction of 80386                               October, 1985
Majority of desktops changed to 32 bit processors   Approx 1990
Widespread use of 32 bit software                   1995-

The changeover of desktops to 32 bits without software to run on them 
was accomplished
mainly by Intels willingness to sell the the 80386 as faster 16 bit 
processor as well,
which AMD is doing, and apparently Intel will follow.

Now thats 10 years from introduction of a 32 bit processor to widespread 
conversion (typically programmers won't use a model that isn't the 
majority of installed
user base).

I personally think thats longer than the 64 bit conversion length will 
be. The 32 bit
applications mainly waited for the operating system to convert, and this 
is occurring
faster for the 32 bit to 64 bit changeover. The limit this time is more 
likely to
be the approximate 3 to 5 year time it takes for the majority of 
desktops to experience
a hardware upgrade.

Samiam is Scott A. Moore

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