Mostly these days I do analytic work. I still write computer programs on occasion in Visual Basic, or PHP for a web page, or something like C++ if necessary. One thing I guessed wrong as an analyst was how quickly the computing world would convert to 64-bit desktop computing. I watched people in the 80's argue that 16-bit computing would not catch on, and argue in the 90's that 32-bit computing was a waste because most data was text characters in 8 bits. In both cases the transitions took place much more quickly than many predicted. People who wrote 8 bit or 16 bit programs midway through the transitions, confident their work would be good for years, found that within two years operating system support for their old programs had been suspended. I watched the Red Cross invest in an 8 bit computer system, pay millions to implement it on a nationwide basis, and then have to abandon it less than two years later.
But 64-bit computing has come slowly and probably won't become dominant in 2007. Mostly this can be blamed on Microsoft, though practically every software maker and hardware manufacturer has dragged their feet. Intel planned to trap most of us in 32 bit computing for the foreseeable future by shifting to Itanium processors for high-end 64 bit computing while leaving us with overheating Pentiums for the desktop. Fortunately AMD stepped in and gave us processors that could run either 64 bit or 32 bit, the brilliant Opteron and Athlon 64 designs. But for those wanted to move to 64 bits, just having a processor was not enough. Linux was available for people who are maniacal geeks. Microsoft brought out a 64 bit version of XP and a beta 64 bit Vista in 2005/2006, but they were clearly for experimenters. I was working freelance for Microsoft up until the end of 2006, but it was just one of my duties, and I could not rationalize allocating time to hassling with test products. Plus I did not believe Vista would be delayed for so long. In March of 2006 I bought a Systemax computer sporting an AMD Athlon 64 X2-3800+. It was blazing fast even with XP, and Vista was due real soon.
I bought the Business edition of Vista in February this year. You can't just buy the 64 bit version, you have to buy the standard package and then send to Microsoft for the 64 bit install disk. Which means Microsoft wants all those ultra-fast 64 bit AMD based computers to run at 32 bits, for now. Sad.
I started the shift on February 21 by backing up files. You can't upgrade directly from 32 bit XP to 64 bit Vista. So I did a clean install. It went without a hitch.
Then I went to install Windows OneCare, which I have been using. You get to use it on three computers for one price and it works great. Only Microsoft does not have a version that works on 64 bits! Those stock options must have made their workers rich and lazy.
Microsoft Visual Studio 2002, Office, and Adobe Studio 8 installed without a hitch. These are 32 bit programs and they run without any problems except that Outlook won't save my email-access passwords. There may be a fix for that, I have not checked yet.
Partly because when I press the "Help and Support" button, I just get an error message. That in itself indicates this program is not quite ready for consumers.
Also, I can't print anything. HP has not made a Vista driver for my relatively new HP LaserJet 1020. My ancient Brother MFC 9700 does not have a driver available either, but it is just about ready for the scrap heap anyway.
Napster installed easily and runs great. My sound card did need a driver from Creative Labs; they had done it! Vista configured itself for my network without going through the long process that was needed with XP. That is a big improvement. I transferred my data and settings from an older computer with Windows Easy Transfer. That failed the first time but went smoothly the second time I tried it.
So now I am set up to write and run 64 bit programs that should be good for the next decade. I can't recommend 64 bit versions of Windows to consumers or businesses yet, but if a few more drivers become available it should be safe to test the waters. Hopefully by 2008 all this will be ironed out and 64 bit Vista will be standard on new computers.