Analogies about Bandwidth and 64-bit Processing 2

Hey everyone,

    This post is a bit late in coming, but still applies.  Occasionally I still get questions from friends (and others) about the differences in Internet speeds, and about the 32-bit/64-bit processors.  So, I thought I’d post my analogies about them here. 

     They are intended to oversimplify the concepts, so I don’t touch on technical aspects too much.  Feel free to comment on them, and help me improve on them.

Internet Speeds:

    Ok, the two main questions that I get here are what is the difference between dial-up and broadband?  and what are the differences between satellite, cable, and DSL?

The analogy that I use here is if you look at an hourglass.  If the hourglass has a tiny hole, then it takes a while for the sand to fall through. But, if the hourglass has a bigger hole, then the same grains of sand will fall quicker.  Dial-up is a tiny hole, and each of the “broadband” speeds are bigger holes.  So, the bigger the hole, (Internet Speed) the faster the sand (your downloads, games, web pages, etc) will flow through it.

As for Cable/DSL/Satellite, my analogy is this.  For cable and DSL, I use the concept of an Interstate with exit ramps.  If you’re on cable, then there’s an exit ramp, and you are among a group of people and businesses on the road from that exit.  If you’re the first in line, then you get the most traffic.  As you move further back in line, you get less traffic.

DSL is the same Interstate, except that you are the only person on your exit.  So, you always get the most possible traffic.

How this translates to your connection is, if you’re further back on the cable line, you get less “bandwidth” (see speed above) than your neighbors.  It’s not like they’ll be on broadband and you’ll be on dial-up, but for extremely bandwidth intensive things (giant downloads or online gaming) you’ll be a bit slower.  On DSL, within reason, you get the bandwidth that you’re supposed to.

32-bit vs. 64-bit Processing.

    To describe this, I use the Interstate analogy again with a twist.  I tell people to imagine an interstate with 4 lanes on each side, and one with 8 lanes on each side.  Then I tell them if you put the same amount of traffic on both of them, which would go faster?

    As for the fact that 64-bit programs don’t work on 32-bit processors and that you have to do special things to make 32-bit programs work on 64-bit processors (with a 64-bit OS), I basically say that the 64-bit programs/OS need more lanes than the 32-bit ones.  For the reason why you have to install something (WOW, for example) to allow 64-bit OS’s to use 32-bit programs, I just say that the new OS isn’t normally designed to run the older programs, so you have to give it some help.

Hopefully these analogies help someone understand the differences.  And as I mentioned before, please comment and help me to improve on them.  If you have your own analogies or explanations, I want to hear them.  Maybe, I’ll use them as well (and put them into another blog post).

Have a great weekend everyone:)

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2 thoughts on “Analogies about Bandwidth and 64-bit Processing

  • Lvostrovsky

    32-bit vs. 64-bit Processing
    I think you interstate analogy is a good start, but you focused on the wrong thing. The difference isn't the number of lanes; it's the size of the trucks.  Given the same highway, 64-bit is faster and reduces congestion because the trucks are bigger, leading to less traffic.

  • patscomputerservices

    That's an excellent point Lvostrovsky. The original analogy that I read was from the A+ Prep book, where Mike Meyers described a man in a box with a series of lights on the wall. The more lights that he had, the more data he could work with.

    I would think that all three analogies (his, mine, and yours) would hopefully get the point across, which is that the more bits available to the processor, the more data it can process at one time.

    Thanks for commenting, and have a great day:)