[LEAPSECS] New Year in Times Square

Gerard Ashton ashtongj at comcast.net
Sat Jan 1 10:59:50 EST 2011

The ball dropping in Times Square illustrates an exacerbation of
something that has always been true. It is not possible in the USA, now
that digital TV is pervasive, to broadcast a truly "live" event. The
ball must drop with an accuracy of about 1 second to satisfy a million
people who are present. The broadcast must show the actual event, not
one recorded from last year, so that if there is any glitch, it will be
shown. The DTV technology imposes an unavoidable delay due the
transmission and compression process of up to 20 seconds.

In the past, transmission delays existed, but they were probably beneath
the level that a regular person would notice. Now they are noticeable.
For example, a family who sets their watches and clocks according to the
ball drop. They send their kid off to school, and he arrives in his
classroom with 5 seconds to spare, according to his watch. But the
classroom clock is automatically synced to WWVB, and the student is
marked late.


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