Fat, Slim Pointers

July 31, 2012

64 bits address space lets us access tons more memory than 32 bits, but with a catch: the pointers themselves are … well, yes, 64 bits. 8 bytes. Which eventually pile up to make a whole lot of memory devoted to pointers if you use pointer-rich data structures. Can we do something about this?

Well, in ye goode olde dayes of 16 bits/32 bits computing, we had some compilers that could deal with near and far pointers; the near, 16-bit pointers being relative to one of the segments, possibly the stack segment, and the far, 32-bits pointers being absolute or relative to a segment. This, of course, made programming pointlessly complicated as each pointer was to be used in its correct context to point to the right thing.

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