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>You lose 64-bit integers if you do that, although
> 63-bit integers are possible by using the sign 
>bit of the NaN to distinguish them, and the loss 
>of one bit from a 64-bit integer is not likely to 
>be a problem for the majority of applications.

Though any code that needed to do bit-manipulation work (XOR, shifts and so on) such as you need in hashing, cryptography and the like, would then surely need to be reworked to do everything in 32-bit chunks, just when most contemporary algorithms assume that the underlying hardware (or VM) can handle bit-twiddling operations in 64-bit chunks.

Having 63-bit integers feels like a case of “so near but yet so far” :-)