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This famous, oft-quoted phrase -- and variations of it -- is routinely attributed to Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation. For the record, Gates flatly denies ever having said it. In fact, he has said the opposite.1 Still, it persists in technical urban legend as a warning against underestimating the pace of PC evolution. We've come a long way since the days of the Intel 8088 processor with its 8-bit data bus addressing one MB (the upper 384 KB of addressing space was reserved for expansion cards, leaving 640 KB for physical memory).

The laptop I'm using to write this article has 6,500 times more RAM than that. In fact, my mobile phone, my digital camera, my DVR, and a dozen other electronic devices I interact with every day have far more than 640 KB of memory. Of course, at the time of this alleged quote, in the early days of the PC industry, many home computers had 64 KB or less.

Like all engineering design efforts, PCs reflect a series of trade-offs. Designers make compromises to make the device easier to build and cheaper to mass produce. These compromises often provide some room for future growth, but often fall short of the true pace of innovation to minimize the impact on existing applications.

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