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Worthy of mention is the rise of the microprocessor- notably the 4004 which was designed for mostly numerical operation in calculators. Whether the step to 8 bit architecture was inevitable is open to debate, but once memory ICs started being produced in 8-bit forms, it would be difficult to justify anything other than 16-bit as the next step. Looking at ...


there some particular design theory or constraint that made a 32-bit word size attractive for IBM to migrate to? It all comes down to the most basic data type, addressing constrains and, less important, reuse of existing memory technology. The byte size had to be a multiple of 4, as needed to accommodate BCD numbers without wasting space. So 8 was chosen ...


One small reason is that you can access memory as a bit array without needing to divide (or do a modulo). Just use the bottom N bits for the byte or word or data cache line position or shift, and the rest of the bits left over as a memory address offset. Which can be done in hardware for free if needed.

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