"It seems that 32-bit processors with 36 or 40-bit address buses could prolong the life of 32-bit (instruction) processors for some time."
That, of course, is exactly what modern Pentium processors are. You can put 64GB of memory into such a thing, but that road leads to all the high memory hassles that the kernel hackers have been having so much fun dealing with. Addressing more physical memory can be (and is) done; the real problem is that you need larger virtual addresses. And that really forces a larger word size or your pointer arithmetic slows to a crawl.
Unless, of course, you want to get back into multiple memory models and "near" and "far" addresses. Personally, I don't miss those days at all.
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