What were the design factors driving having EVM native words as 256-bit? It feels excessive, especially if one needs to process as large data set as blockchain.
Quote from Ethereum Design Rationale:
32 byte word size - the alternative is 4 or 8 byte words, as in most other architectures, or unlimited, as in Bitcoin. 4 or 8 byte words are too restrictive to store addresses and big values for crypto computations, and unlimited values are too hard to make a secure gas model around. 32 bytes is ideal because it is just large enough to store 32 byte values common in many crypto implementations, as well as addresses (and provides the ability to pack address and value into a single storage index as an optimization), but not so large as to be extremely inefficient.