4

Yesterday I was digging through a rather long directory path to watch an episode of Fist of the North Star (on Windows 8.1) when I was hit with an error message:

The path name is too long

I looked into it and found that Windows doesn't support a file path name greater than 260 bytes. In discovering this rather shocking limitation, I kept seeing a quote bounced around as a joke, "640K RAM is more than enough." This quote was attributed to Bill Gates. Where did this supposed quote originate?

5
  • 2
    quoteinvestigator.com/2011/09/08/640k-enough that site is one of the good ones for any quote you wonder about. – UncleBod Feb 17 '20 at 15:26
  • Windows 10 has supported long (32767) file names since about 2016. NTFS supported them before then, but unfortunately Windows Explorer had the limit hard coded at 260. – alephzero Feb 17 '20 at 15:33
  • In the very early days of computing, someone said that a thoseand registers would be enough. But I don't know who, – Walter Mitty Feb 17 '20 at 19:19
  • btw IIRC MS-DOS had pah limit only 66 chars ... – Spektre Feb 18 '20 at 7:36
  • @Spektre 80 altogether: the drive letter, directory (limited to 66 characters), file name and extension, with appropriate separators. – Stephen Kitt Feb 18 '20 at 14:54
7

Quote Investigator says that, according to Fred Shapiro, the earliest known instance of the quote is the April 29, 1985 issue of Infoworld:

When we set the upper limit of PC-DOS at 640K, we thought nobody would ever need that much memory. — William Gates, chairman of Microsoft

See also Who set the 640K limit? and Why did Windows pick 260 characters as the maximum path length?

2
  • 1
    The 640K limit was a hardware design limit under the control of IBM. IBM and Microsoft did work together on some aspects of the PC's hardware design, so it would be plausible that Bill Gates might have had some involvement in choosing 640K as the limit, but the practical choices would have been 512K or 768K, with trade-offs between linear RAM and hardware expansion versatility. Arguably, if the main limit had been set at 512K, that could have allowed more flexibility in the design of LIMM expanded memory. – supercat Feb 17 '20 at 16:11
  • 1
    @supercat yes, see my answer to the linked 640K question. – Stephen Kitt Feb 17 '20 at 16:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.