Remember when PCs first came out and you had 4K of RAM? Then the Atari 1600 came out with 16K of RAM. The price tag on that thing was astronomical.
We have come a long way from those early days. Today your standard PC has 32 bit processors and a minimum of 128 meg of RAM and even that amount will barely run anything.
Windows XP recommends that you run the operating system with a minimum of 64 meg. Anyone who has tried to run Windows XP on 64 meg of RAM knows that the PC itself runs at a snails pace. You can actually follow the redraw rate on your windows applications as they open up. Painful doesn't even begin to describe it.
Given that fact, when you then take the recommendations for running Windows Vista with 512 meg of RAM one can only imagine what the actual requirements will be to run the system anywhere near what would be acceptable. We're probably talking about somewhere in the area of 1 gig. Maybe even 2 or 4 gig depending on how heavy your applications are. That is simply a mind boggling amount of memory when you go back as recently as the late 1990s when your highest end network systems didn't need more than 256 meg of RAM.
While 64 bit processors are slow to hit the ground running, eventually they will be a requirement as 32 bit processors simply won't be able to do the job anymore because 32 bit processors can't address more than 4 gig of RAM. As a matter of fact the current Intel Pentium 4 (EM64T) and AMD Athlon 64 (AMD64) desktop computer processors can handle 1024GB (1 Terabyte) of memory. You read correctly; 1 Terabyte. It won't be long before software manufacturers take advantage of all that power.
Looking at today's games it is painfully clear that only 1 gig memory just isn't going to cut it. In most high end games there is a 20% increase in frames per second just going from 1 gig to 2 gig of system memory.
The experts all agree that with the rapid progress in technology both on the hardware and software end the period in time where computer memory requirements stabilize will most likely never come to pass until we have physically reached the point where we can no longer count that high. Eventually there is only so much bologna that we'll be able to stuff into that 5 pound bag. So it is not inconceivable that in the near future, possibly as near as the next 4 or 5 years, a typical system memory requirement will look something like this.
Windows 3000. Minimum memory to run operating system, 10 gig. Memory to run Windows Work Suite XXXP, 50 gig. If running simultaneous triple bilateral supercharged processors suggested memory is 100 gig.
While the above dramatization may sound quite amusing and even a little absurd, it's really not as far out of the realm of possibility as it sounds. If you have any doubts then I suggest you dig your Atari 1600 out of the closet.