According to Intel, we can say goodbye to 16- and 32-bit

According to Intel, we can say goodbye to 16- and 32-bit

Intel recommends a new architectural standard for: X86-S. In this way, the activation of processors will be greatly simplified.

Such changes are rare. To ensure maximum compatibility, processors can often handle multiple modes. For this reason, existing x86-64 architectures go through several steps during the boot process. With the so-called trampoline code, the processor is kicked from the original 16 to 32-bit protected mode and then works in 64-bit. For end users, 64-bit mainly means that one can use more than 4 GB of RAM on the device, which currently seems like an inadequate capacity for daily use. For developers, 64-bit offers more speed, more available memory and increased security options.

Left: Current boot process for x86-64. Right: the recommended path for x86-S. Source: Intel


In particular, Intel proposes to pack many unused features with the new x86-S-ISA (Instruction Set Architecture). The current x86-64 standard has four so-called ‘rings’, from 0 to 3. The operating system can be found on ring 0, the kernel, while modern applications run on ring 3. The reason for this is that each ring is consecutive. it becomes less and less privileged over the devices that run everything. Rings 1 and 2 are completely deprecated, according to Intel. Legacy apps may be the same, which means native support will disappear. The same can be used for all 16-bit operating systems, while the 32-bit variant of Windows 10, for example, can still work.

In fact, this move by Intel is not as drastic as it might seem. Incompatibilities with older drivers can prevent legacy devices from working at the OS level. So it is rather that Intel has seen the slow decline of 16- and 32-bit and now concludes that support is no longer worth the effort.

Windows XP was the first Microsoft Operating System with 64-bit support in 2004 and Windows 11 is only available in 64-bit form. In 2008, Intel ended support for the early 8086 code. Nowadays this can only be run by hardware emulation. Intel recommends an upgrade so you can still run outdated software. It says it has made great strides in this direction since 2005, when it started supporting inheritance in this way. In a practical sense, this software approach requires significant performance gains over virtualized hardware.

Simplification should also help with I/O because there would be fewer intermediate steps between hardware and software. The so-called string I/O port supported an older I/O model that was driven by the CPU.

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