A CDE Definition
A fraction of time that has numerous interpretations depending on who uses it. It may refer to one computer clock cycle, one nanosecond, one millisecond or one AC power cycle. There may be others. See nanosecond.
(1) One billionth of a second. Used to measure the speed of logic and memory chips, a nanosecond can be visualized by converting it to distance. In one nanosecond, electricity travels approximately a foot in a wire. Admiral Grace Hopper was famous for handing out strands of "telephone wire nanoseconds" to her audience whenever she lectured about technology. Holding the wire turns the unreal concept of a billionth of a second into reality.
Even at 186,000 miles per second, electricity is never fast enough for the hardware designer who worries over a few inches of circuit path. The slightest delay is multiplied millions of times, since billions of pulses are sent through a wire in a single second. In addition, today's chips contain more than a thousand feet of wire traces, which are the circuit pathways that carry electricity. See space/time, jiffy and ohnosecond.
(2) The time between a traffic light turning green and a New York City cab driver blowing his horn.
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