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Pretty simple question.

Computers are made using electronics which uses electricity which I presume travels at the speed of light.

If all the components are connected at this speed, why does my laptop take loads of time to perform some pretty basic operation sometimes?

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closed as not constructive by Diago Jan 11 '11 at 6:31

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Electrons do not travel at the speed of light. –  Amir Rachum Jan 9 '11 at 9:20
    
Sounds like a good question for the physics stackexchange. –  SilverbackNet Jan 10 '11 at 4:07
    
@Amir: very good point. then we would travel at the speed of light. –  studiohack Jan 11 '11 at 5:01
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This is hardly subjective and argumentative. There are well-established, objective reasons why this is fact. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jan 11 '11 at 8:00

1 Answer 1

up vote 29 down vote accepted

First: Electricity does not travel at the speed of light.

Second: Computers work by clock cycle and synchronizing tasks to those clock cycles. This means operations taken even longer then just the time for it to travel down a wire.

Third: What you define as basic tasks can be hundreds to tens of thousands to <Insert much larger number> of operations on a computer. Add into that working with physical media such as HDDs and you quickly get to 10+ seconds.

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7  
Electric signals move at their propagation speed, which is different for different types of conductors and different electrical components and is the reason why we need to use clock to synchronize tasks. –  AndrejaKo Jan 9 '11 at 10:40
    
The propagation speed, IIRC, is also dependent on the frequency of the signal. My fields and waves courses were a while ago, so don't ask me what the relationship is. –  MBraedley Jan 9 '11 at 13:57
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Re: "hundreds to tens of thousands of operations on a computer". That's vastly underestimated. –  frabjous Jan 9 '11 at 14:44
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Sorry, but I am a software developer, underestimates are our forte! :) –  Dan McGrath Jan 11 '11 at 4:45

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